Srikanth Perinkulam

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Category: Adventure / Travel (page 4 of 5)

The Wayanad escapade

Mudit spreads out a sheet of paper on the table right in front of CCD. FIve more heads hustle over the fine print and in a few moments HydVentura’s next flagpost is decided. A trip was long pending and we could just not let the four day Christmas weekend to go by just like that! Animesh floats a mail across to the internal group the very next day followed by a formal communication mail from Shiva. In a few days for the first time ever we’re flooded with nominations for the trip. 45 and odd people respond in positive. We’re compelled to raise the bar and send out another mailer stating that only people who’ve transferred the requisite amount before friday EOD would be considered. Nominations are finally frozen by next monday EOD.Amidst tight schedules arrangements are parallely taken care of and by 21st december we’re almost good to head for the trek. Accommodation, Travel and other miscellaneous arrangements almost seem to fall in place.

The first mailer that was sent out had the difficulty and endurance of the trek set at ‘medium’. But as days pass and as information is gathered, the group is apprised of the difficulty. The ratio surprisingly seems to fall on the heavier side. With last minute drop-outs and substitute replacements, 24th morning has the count at 15 ladies and 13 guys. Later into the trip we would realise HydVentura has spread its wings to IBM and MIcrosoft!

24th December’ 08 – Wednesday

Deepa calls and informs she’s compelled to quit. Shefy, Poorvi, Sravanti and I leave from the Microsoft campus at around 16:50hrs. Sookti joins us at MGBS by around 18:25hrs. We sell Deepa’s ticket to another person and soon happen to meet the 20:30 service folks too.The 19:30 Garuda service pulls into the station at around 19:50hrs we’re honking out of Hyderabad. Jiddu, Sadique, Aish, Anu, Ajay, Hari, Swati, Revathi,Himanshu,Bhavya,Divya,Jeevz, Prasanna and Poorna leave by the 20:30hrs service. Eby and Madhuri were to leave by train and would be joining us the next day at Yaatri NIvas, Bangalore the next day along with Shruti, Atul, Sashank and Manoj [Joining from B’lore] and Rachesh Nambiar [ joining from Chennai ]. Ram would be joining us directly at Sulthan Bathery the next day. The long day takes its toll and the onward jorney is more or less sober with not much happening.

25th December’ 08 – Thursday

At about 06:40 hrs the bus we’re travelling breaks down about 13kms before Chickballapur. Just before we decide hopping onto a Buffalo van , an APSRTC luxury liner screeches to a halt in front of us. Five of us and a couple of others hop into it and by 08:10hrs we reach Yatri Nivas. Madhuri, Eby, Sasank, Rachesh, Shruti and Manoj reach there well before us. JIddu and team arrive more or less at the same time. For a petty 40Rs. we refresh here and by 09:30hrs we’re all set to head off towards Wayanad in the Mazda and Sumo that had been arranged. At about 12:40 hrs we decide to have a brunch and Rachesh suggests we head for a restaurant thats quite close to Wonderla. Once there we realised they offered a pathetic service to big groups and got out after a few minutes wait. A few minutes ahead we stop over at another seemingly decent place for what now became a lunch. The restaurant owner arranges food for us in a thatched shed. A quick lunch with spices of antics from the hungry morons gets back things on the roll.

As the Sumo winds up one of the hair pin bends on the highway, I get to sense a feeling of oneness when I see a foreigner jack hammering the pedals of his Trek bike. It takes just moments to recall that he must be one of those 52 cyclists who’d come down to Bangalore for the 7 day TFN ride. I more or less expected to come across these folks en-route and the sight of this person only rekindled my spirits to take part in Enduro3. There’s this special bonding that you develop with the sport and believe me, only a cyclist can relate to it!

At about 18:00hrs we happen to reach the Karnataka-Kerala RTA checkpost. Since the vehicles had only a state permit it takes a while for the drivers to get done with the formalities. The government purportedly scoops 3000Rs. for the Mazda and 800Rs. for the Sumo for a seven day permit to travel in the state. For all you know as cash goes under the table in the RTA tent out there, we spend some quality time in the adjacent thick vegetative growth. Finally at about 18:25hrs we manage to leave the checkpost and head towards Sulthan Bathery. Ram by this time already covers Pookote lake and heads towards Ambalavayal. Close to 19:30hrs we reach the Sulthan Bathery town. Anish directs us to the Italiya resorts and at about 20:00hrs we reach the resort. A left turn at the Ambalavayal [Kalagapara] junction when you’re on the NH212 driving towards Calicut from Mysore takes you towards Edakkal caves. Italiya resorts, the place where we’d arranged accommodation for the folks fell on this route.

Jose and Vinoy welcome us to the lodge and show us around the place where we’d be camping for the next three days. Though we’d specifically asked for seperate dorms for the ladies, a miscommunication between Anish and Jose leads to just one dormitory being arranged. 150Rs. for that A/C dorm was indeed costly but then it was the best we could arrange remotely. Dinner was yet to be cooked and it would be atleast 10:00pm by the time we would get to lay our hands on the food. As people quickly refresh, Ram and I head to a nearby bakery to get some light snacks to satiate our hunger. Christmas this year is celebrated by sharing plum cakes with twenty seven people whom you’ve met just days before! We have a quick dinner by 22:30hrs. The long journey takes its toll and by around 23:15 hrs most of us hit the bed.

26th December’ 08 – Friday

At about 04:00 hrs in the morning, Jiddu’s cell starts hooting. But for a few silent abuses that pass beneath the sheet, people get to their toes soon and by 07:00hrs almost everyone’s ready. Jose serves some black tea and by 08:00hrs we’re all set to head for Chembra peak. We get some stuff packed for lunch and head towards the peak.

The Chembra peak trek

At about 09:00hrs we manage to reach the base of Chembra peak. Permission is required to trek the peak and the charge for every ten members is 500Rs. Guides are readily available at the base. As decided the night before we split the team into three groups, each having a lead and a sweep. Shefy, Rachesh and Ajay were to lead the groups. Aish, Jiddu and I as in any trek take up sweep’s role.

With an altitude of approx 2100m , Chembra peak is the highest peak in Wayanad and is purportedly higher than the Mulayangiri peak [ Highest peak in Karnataka ]. As you climb up, you can starkly differentiate the seven stages in the peak. On the second stage you come across a beautiful heart shaped pond. The first two stages are decently steep and from then on the climb is more or less just like any other trek with a few interesting stretches here and there.

At the third stage as rest of the other folks take some rest, Jiddu, Sasank and I head to climb a small hillock a bit away. Wading through shoulder high blades of grass, chancing the next step not quite knowing what lays ahead or down beneath there and finally making it to the top of the hillock for that splendid view of the valley down there was indeed a rejuvenator. In a few more moments we join the group and proceed towards the other stages. At about 13:40hrs we finally make it to the peak. Aish happens to almost give up at the second stage and it takes Jiddu an additional hour to prod her up to the summit.

A quick lunch up on the peak and we’re set to head back. At about 15:10hrs we decide to start our descent. Things don’t really look rosy and since most of the members were rookies to trekking the descent takes its toll. Those who’d reached a bit early stop over at the Heart pond and spend some quality time waiting for us. Picking up the non-biodegradable remains we head down taking turns to prod people downhill. It takes close to four and a half hours for the descent and by the time we head to the base, dusk breaks in and the last part of the trek gets a bit more interesting because of the darkness. Finally at about 19:30hrs we reach the parking lot.

There’s always this special moment that I cherish after every trek – The pain, the sense of accomplishment and not to mention the elation that you get to see on people’s faces at the fag end. When you’re organising a trek for a big group, you always have this dagger behind your back reminding you to keep alternate plans just in case someone is not able to keep up the pace or for that instance even move with the group.Not to be pessimistic but at times you start off wondering how many would really complete the trek. This group was in a way very different. Most of them were rookies with not much exposure to physical activities. But then they had the enthusiasm to cut it right across the center and give in their best. I would attribute the success of the Chembra peak trek primarily to the spirit of the twenty seven folks to gel in and see to it that they got through it till the end – together!

We finally reach the lodge at about 21:00hrs and after a quick dinner hit the bed.

27th December’ 08 – Saturday

Eddakkal caves

We leave for Edakkal caves by around 09:00am. Edakkal caves gets its name from the literal translation of Eddai[Gap] – kal [Rock]. These formations are said to date back to the 400BC and the carvings in it are believed to be etched out by the Kurumbars [ Wayanad tribals]. Entrance to the caves is at a nominal 10Rs. Per head. In a way the caves are quite different from the other regular caves that you get to see. You’re supposed to crawl into the front opening and then climb up a set of stairs. From here you walk a bit ahead and then climb another flight of rickety stairs. To your right here you’d find the central part of the Edakkal caves- the pristine carvings.

To explore other parts of the caves you can climb a set of rocks up and then squeeze yourself through another set of rocks to finally get exposed to another open space. The climb here gets interesting with you having to climb up the rock with the support of a rope. You could easily climb up the rock with a good pair of shoes without much of support though. You could climb a bit more ahead and gain a further ascent of about 1000ft if you have that rat in your mind. Jiddu and I gave it a shot and climbed the ascent in about 10minutes flat. There are spots where you get shit scared and you literally curse yourself for having attempted it but then the sense of accomplishment that you get once you reach the peak is all worth it.

Soochipera falls

At about 14:30hrs we head towards Kalpetta-Meppad for a fitting lunch and from there proceed to Soochipera waterfalls. We reach the falls at about 17:30hrs.The chilling water, the rock formations , the starkly distinct cuts in the rocks at the base of the falls and the pristine location of the falls befittingly rejuvenates you. We spend about an hour or so here and quickly head back to the vehicles.

A camp fire was arranged back at a place close to the lodge. Despite the pathetic collection of songs the lodge guys had, we spend a couple of hours by the fire and head back to the lodge. Back in the lodge hell breaks loose as we celebrate Sasanks b’day.

28th December’ 08 – Sunday

We leave for Bangalore at about 08:00hrs. A quick breakfast en-route and we pull over at another restaurant for lunch. At about 14:40hrs we reach Ranganthittu bird sanctuary at Mysore. Some quality time here and at about 16:00hrs we head towards Bangalore. The return journey to Hyd was arranged in two different buses. We run a lottery to see who’d get to go in the 20:30 service. Anuradha, Swathi, Bhavya, Divya, Revathi, Jeevz ,Shefy,Ram,Himanshu and I board the first service and chug back to hyd. Manoj, Atul and Shruthi head back home from Kalasapalayam. Eby and Madhuri have a ball of a time chasing their volvo all the way from Anand rao circle to Indra nagar. Rachesh picks his 21:15 service back to Chennai  while the remaining team boards the 22:30hrs service to hyd.

As it all came to an end, I’m reminded of the first meeting that the core committee had close to a month back. Then we were simply targetting a group 0f 10-15. As days passed the numbers only grew and finally despite having a few more lucrative options [ TFN and the Gokarna trek] we stuck to the Chembra trek. And I’m pretty much happy I did! Four whole days of carefree fun, thrill of being in a big group and co-ordinating efforts to make it happen – Its indeed been a wonderful break from routine life. Besides, this was the first trek for quite a few people and everything just fell in place to make it a memorable trip! All in all, a fitting end to 2008!

Stats and directions:

Team: 27

Route:

Chembra Peak : Bangalore –> Wonder La –> Mysore –> Nanjangud –> Abalavayal / Kalagapara Junction [Sulthan Bathery] –>Kalpetta –> Meppady –> Chembra peak Estate –> Chembra peak

Eddakal caves: Bangalore –> Wonder La –> Mysore –> Nanjangud –> Sulthan Bathery [NH212] –> left at Ambalavayal/ Kalagapara Junction [Sulthan Bathery] –> You turn a bit ahead –> Straight road to Eddakal

Distance:

Chembra Peak: ~14kms from Kalpetta

Edakkal Caves: ~24kms from Kalpetta

Altitude: Chembra Peak: ~2100m above MSL

Endurance: Med. | Difficulty : Medium [Non Monsoon] High [Monsoon]

Time : Uphill: 4.0 hrs. Downhill: 3.0 hrs

Transport: You’ll love riding your bike [ read cycle ] on these roads.

Expenses: ~Rs3500 [Hyderabad – Wayanad all incl.]

Stay: Preferably stay at Kalpetta. Accommodation wouldn’t be an issue if you’re a small group. Check this link for details on accommodation. We were sort of compelled to stay at a lodge by name Italiya resorts in Sulthan Bathery. Charged 150Rs per day per head for an A/C dormitory , though the price was a bit high – the stay was decently comfortable. Contact – Jose : 09447345722

Food: Food as in any place in Kerala is cooked with coconut oil. If you’re not accustomed to this, you’re sure well going to have a ball of a time 🙂

Duration: 4 days. Chembra Peak – 1 day ; Edakkal caves, Soochipera Waterfalls – 1 day

Best time to visit: Late Monsoon.

Tour of the Nilgiris

When was the last time you ever got off your seat and hit to the roads? Lost track of all the subtle necessities and requirements of life and spent time just to live the moment; Gave that extra push not just to compete but to work in camaraderie to accomplish a certain goal? Spent moments just to cherish what you have left of what you yourself have spoilt? Breathed not to keep yourself living but to realise that you were just not living?

When was the last time you rode a bike?

A group of bicycle enthusiasts in Bangalore are organising a tour of the Nilgiris – A seven day tour starting and ending at Bangalore covering Mysore, Mercara, Ooty, Wayanad and Doddabetta through the Nilgiris.  One another chance to mingle with people from different backgrounds and interests. And who knows, you’ll end up finding something very much interesting in life!

Click on the image below to know more about the journey. 

The Ratangad Trek

Around 3:00am in the morning, a cup of hot masala tea by the roadside gives me just the required warmth to keep aloof the frigid weather. As I stare out onto the winding roads ideally focussing nowhere, just another smile spans across with the very thought that I’m not heading back to Hyderabad without accomplishing Ratangad.

Oct 2nd 2008

12:30AM. Prashant and Parin get the Sumo to a grinding halt right in front of Cotton kings. Sourabh,Ashu and I hop into it while Vishal joins us a bit ahead. We pick up Rahul enroute Hinjewadi. Gourav joins us at Infy Phase II and finally we head for Sangammner after picking Trupti from Dange Chowk. It’s close to 01:30AM. It gets cold as we hit the highway and the speed of the vehicle helps not a bit. While Rahul, Vishal and Trupti try some stunts in the rear end, Gourav,Sourab, Ashu and I try catching some sleep in the mid seat. At about 03:00am somewhere about 50kms ahead of Sangammner, we happen to sight an old man sitting by the roadside selling tea on his push cart. As the aroma gets my nostrils quivering, my mind wanders somewhere else wondering at the hardships this old man had to undergo to make ends meet. For what other reason would anyone be selling tea at this untimely an hour?

Paying him, we hurl back into the vehicle and head towards Sangammner. Soon we cross Sangammner and head towards Ratanwadi through Akole and Rajur. At about 06:30 am we touch Bandardaara. An hour or so from there through kutcha roads and we reach the base village of Ratangad – Ratanwadi. Ratanwadi as such is famous for a 1000year old Shiva temple called the Amriteshwar temple.

Ideally you wouldn’t require help from the villagers if you’ve been to this place once before. But Just to be on the safer side we head to the peak with the help of Barku Kaka. Ratangad lies to the left of the Amriteshwar temple as you face it. The first fifteen minutes of the trek is pretty much a walk by the stream and at times a few subtle crosses across it. In about half an hour you’d be reaching the first plateau which would then give you a glimpse of the Ratangad peak with a cascade right ahead. Another half an hour trek up takes you to a bifurcation. Here’s where you need to be a bit careful. You’d be heading for Katrabai pass if you walk straight ahead and Ratangad if you take the other fork. About another thirty minutes of climb from here, gets you to the most renown spot of Ratangad – The hanging ladders. These two independent ladders take you up to the main entrance of the fort. After having done Bhimashankar, these seemed to be a cake walk. But then, could you ever trust to be in safe bounds if you were to climb rickety ladders that were hooked to rocks with just a couple of struts to bolster them 🙂 ?

At about 10:15am we reach the Ratangad peak. A quick breakfast in one of the caves and we then set out to explore the remnants of the erstwhile fort. The Ratangad fort gives you the one of the most beautiful views of the sahyadri valley. There’s one particulat spot from where you could get to see a couple of adjoining peaks. The very sight of the tremendous cliffs towering from the deep valley below is by itself so very rewarding! Ashu, Rahul, Gourav and I head a bit more ahead in our quest to capture the Sahyadri beauty from a higher point. Only half way through do we realise that we’ve been actually climbing the peak with the sole conviction of going up there, not even remotely bothered of how we’d head back downwards! The knee height grass was the only support we had to climb up the steep peak. Still undeterred we finally manage to reach the peak. A couple of minutes here gives you the supreme confidence of having scaled 4000ft.  With only the grass to prevent us from plummeting down the cliff, the path downhill is covered pretty sheepishly 🙂 .

At about 01:20pm we finally decide to head back downhill to the base village. In approximately an hour and a quarter past it, we hit the base village. A quick quasi lunch here with whatever we’re left with and we head back to Pune. Parin was hell bent on visiting the Bhandardara dam. So we take the Shendi route and reach the dam at about 04:30pm. With dusk nearing, the climate too gets pretty comforting. Added to it, the dam full to the brim and water overflowing from the contours in brief spasms makes just a beautiful recipe to relieve all the stress that you would have accumulated over the week. A few quite moments is spent sitting on the dyke watching water lash by the walls and unleashing all that it has to show . Finally at about 05:15pm we head back towards Sangammner. After a brief snack break somewhere close to Sangammner we manage to reach Pune outskirts by around 10:00pm.

And even before I get to absorb it, I realise we’ve just covered Ratangad. After the failed attempt to pursue this during the R-K-H trek and an unavoidable let go due to my project party last weekend, October 2nd just seemed to fall in place for Ratangad 🙂  .

Details:

Team: 9

Route: Pune – Nashik Phata-Chakan-Narayan Gaon-Sangamner-Akole-Rajur-Randha falls-Bhandardara-Ratanwadi-Ratangad

Distance: Pune-Sangammner:~140kms; Sangammner-Bhandardara: ~60kms; Bhandardara-Ratanwadi: ~20kms;

Altitude: ~4200ft. above MSL.

Endurance: Med. | Difficulty : low [Non Monsoon] High [Monsoon]

Time : Uphill: 2.0 hrs. Downhill: 1.0 hrs

Transport: Preferably arrange a cab. Base village has remote connectivity. ST :Pune-Sangammner, Sangammner – Rajur, Rajur-Shendi, Boat: Shendi-Bandardara, Hired travel: Bandardara-Ratanwadi

Expenses: ~Rs350

Stay: Cave Available for camping [ Accomodates about 40ppl ]

Duration: Preferable opt for an Overnight stay.

Best time to visit: Late Monsoon.

Ananda Valley

Damn! It’s a saturday morning and here I am sitting on a cushioned seat of a bus to a place called Ananda Valley for a team outing – A team consisting of only a handful people whom i’ve interacted with, the rest being from different clusters. The stink sinks deeper when I recollect I’ve had to cancel the Ratangad trek for this outing. But then there’s no one else to blame but me for having got myself involved that deep in the organising phase of the outing. The saddest part was that the team outing was being conducted just because it had to be done and not for the spirit of it. I guess 28th is the last date for the submission of bills and the higher management decided to have this party organised on the 27th. Lest, the fund that is allocated every quarter especially for team building activities would have gone unused.

That said, Ananda Valley is indeed a wonderful place to be. It’s a 110 acre pristine valley about 50kms on the Nashik Highway and has been built by people who’ve been there on those lands for the past seven generations. Very hospitable people and a great unwinding spot. We reached the place at about 09:15am and after a quick breakfast head for an eco-tour cum trekking. A set of team building games follow and I get to interact with people from other clusters too. Lunch at about 01:00pm is followed by a splendid magic show. At about 04:30pm the rain dance starts. This goes on till about 06:30pm and we head back home.

The magic show was indeed the icing on the cake. Tricks can be learnt, but the way the interest of the audience is maintained is something that the magician brought about extremely well. In case you plan to have a party or a get-together, you may want to consider contacting Sallu Shaim on 09823085309 or 09325501635 for a show. I bet, you wouldn’t regret that decision of yours!

All in all, the Magic show and the Rain DJ made the day and did indeed to a certain extent help in bereaving the loss of a trek-less weekend 🙂  .

The Bhimashankar trek

Approximately 2000 feet above MSL as you cling to your dear life with those nimble fingers, along the crevices of a rock overlooking a deep valley; All you get to sense is the rush of blood across your veins up to your brains! For those few seconds, as you’re left with nothing but just sheer gut instincts to guide you through, you’re stupefied by the way Mother Nature whispers in your ears as to how important your life is! I guess at times, it does help to reason out how important that thin dividing line between life and death is!

Aug 30th

4:13 am I get a call from Suhas. He’s right outside my door waiting for me to open it, just after his night shift work. Damn! Some people never change. Aditya gets ready for work while I hit the bed again trying to spruce out those few moments of sleep. At 4:30am the first wakeup call goes out to Rahul. This time for some reason he doesn’t pick the call even after about six or seven calls. I decide to leave it to him for some more time and get fresh in a few minutes. A few more timess I try in vain and then call up Trupti, assuming she’s already shifted to her new house which is close to his place. But then, things just don’t happen the way you’d like it to be! She still hasn’t shifted.

Ashu arrives at my place at about 05:10am. With no other option left, we decide to move ahead and reach ShivajiNagar station to board the 6:00am Sinhagad express to Karjat. Ashu and Suhas suggest we board the train at Khadki. As we head to pick a rick. I give Trupti on final call to decide on how we need to proceed. Her suggestion was that we’d decide that at the station. So Ashu and Suhas head to Khadki and I head to Shivaji Nagar. Vaijan, Trupti and Sourabh reach ShivajiNagar station well ahead of us and meet Prashant, Parin, Monica and Anshuman who’d already reached the station. Once I reach at about 05:50am, Trupti and I decide to head back to Kalewadi Phata and wake up Nair or at least see what’s been keeping him down for so long. Monica and Anshuman quit at the station for unknown reasons. Our plan was to try catching up with the remaining team at Khandas. Anup was to board at Pimpri and Aditya at Chinchwad.

At about 06:30am we reach Nair’s residence and despite several bangs on his door no one responds. Finally after about five minutes, one of Nair’s friends fearfully opens the door and lets us in. We rush into Nair’s room only to see him sound asleep. Boy! You must have seen the expression on his face as his friend woke him up – the startled look just buys out everything that we had! As we head to Swargate, We still wonder as to how he could have missed all our calls despite his cell being in the normal mode!

As there were no direct buses to Karjat, we board an ST to Khopoli at about 08:30am. The remaining team had already reached Karjat by then. At about 10:00am we reach Khopoli and from there we move ahead to Karjat phata. At about 11:30am we finally manage to head to Karjat from Karjat phata. At Karjat, Rahul speaks to a chap to drop us at Khandas. The deal is set for 400Rs. At about 12:45pm as we reach Khandas, this weird driver demands 200 more saying he was totally unaware of the 400 deal. We do try to put up a bit of resistance but then it’s always better to play safe when you’re not in you territory, so we end up paying a solid 600 bucks for the one hour ride. Big time looting!

As we head towards Shidi Ghat, Anup messages me the directions from the starting point. We had to take a left after a small culvert and then keep walking the path after we take a right turn as and when we get to see two wells.  They’d been waiting for us for almost two hours now at a small stream ahead. As we walk towards the culvert seeking directions from the villagers, a stark reality looms ahead. Most of them without even volunteering to help, directly ask if we needed a guide. We out rightly reject it and keep walking based on gut instinct. Thankfully, we find a small shop where we ask for directions. The old man helps us out with pleasure in a jiffy and asks us to be cautious as Shidi ghat could be a bit dicey for first timers to this place. In about twenty minutes we finally manage to meet up with the remaining nine folks. It’s been a long long wait for them!

The ladder, the Stare, the Pull and the Jump!

At about 2:00pm we start moving ahead. The climb up Shidi ghat is pretty straight forward for the first sixty minutes or so. A few pulls on the calf muscles and you shouldn’t be finding it that difficult to tread up the hill. At about 03:15 pm we happen to meet Tukkaram, another villager. A few yards ahead and we realise how helpful he was. Right round the corner lay the first hurdle of Bhimashankar – a rickety metallic ladder that is supposed to take you up to another adjunct cliff. Though chances are highly remote that you’d miss your step here on the ladder rungs; midway through, as you climb up the sloping support the very look at the precipice below would definitely give you a few missed beats! Once you cover this span and move a bit ahead, the second daunting phase of Bhimashankar presents itself in all glory – In the same cliff, to move ahead you need to literally hook up with your fingers to the rock crevices and hang parallel to the rock for a few moments before you get a foothold on the rocks again a bit further ahead. Supporting your 65+ body weight with your fingers at a height of about 1000ft – The emotions on people’s faces as Tukkaram kaka helped us out through this spot would probably be the best Kodak moment of this trek! Ah, and then comes another close to vertical Aluminum ladder supported by freshly added bamboo supports. Just when you think you’re almost up there, the ladder starts its slant towards the right cliff. It takes a few moments to get your balance right and then when you finally reach the last rung of the ladder all it takes 😉 is just a mighty push on the slippery rocks to gain firm ground. Shidi Ghat ROCKS!!

One by one we finally manage to reach the first level of the climb – A wide plateau on which on which are banked four to five houses and Paddy fields. This is where Arun – a seven year lad comes and enquires if we need anything to drink? Not wanting to lose any time we plan to move ahead without any breaks. Even before we cross one of the fields, this chap runs home and gets a vessel filled to the brim with ‘Thak’ – Buttermilk. Phew! Now that’s business. I’d bet a 100$ on someone who’d morally and whole heartedly not want to have that drink after all the climb and jumps 🙂 .

Once everyone’s rejuvenated themselves, we start moving uphill. At about five we reach the Shidi Ghat-Ganesh Ghat junction. This is the place where both the routes culminate to lead to Bhimashankar. Tukkaram kaka takes leave here and directs us to Bhimashankar. Probably Anup and Aditya would be the best people to describe the last level climb 🙂 . We literally had Rahul behind their back at every step prodding them to move faster and bucking them up. For the last half an hour all we hear was a soaring ‘Chal’- Keep Moving. Probably, Had Rahul known Anup’s been in Infy for close to six years now, things would have been different 🙂 . Around 6:00pm we reach a diversion. We randomly chose the one that went straight and moved ahead. A fifteen minutes climb and even before we realize, we’ve reached the Bhimashankar Peak. Wohoo! All that was left now was to find the temple / village.

In search of wildlife!

As we tread along the well laid path and look a few yards ahead, we just have gaping faces. For a few moments not one of us talks. We’re left spellbound by just another creation of Nature. It’s just clouds, breeze, sounds of birds chirping and you! At a height of about 3600ft as you sit silently on the edge of the cliff, with the chilling breeze whining across your ears what else could you ask? I’m lost in deep thought of things past, present and future. Flashes of incidents just whizz past and as you reciprocate to Nature with a smile on your face, another set of memories get frozen somewhere and etched out!

Darkness finally gets us back and then when it looms on us that we still had to reach the village, we try scouting for directions. Rahul thankfully gets the line across to Bhavna who’d been here recently. Ah ! Surprise. We were actually walking towards the Bhimashankar Wildlife sanctuary. A few yards and we would be lost in the wildlife 🙂 . We finally head back and come to a place where diversions were found. Visibility was real low. With not much to believe on but sheer instincts we huddle together and head towards a path which seemed more convincing. Just then, a distant sound of a bell catches our attention. We tread in the direction of the sound and in a few moments we sight lights a bit ahead. The chime and people’s voices become much clearer. A turn round the corner and behold! We find the temple at a distance. In about five minutes we reach the village. We’re surprised looking at the village size. What we expected to see was a small temple and a few huts here and there. But what we saw was a total contrast – A well maintained temple with big huts and houses. The whole place was sort of commercialized -Thanks to the road route that you have to Bhimashankar!

A quick darshan in the temple and a dinner at the adjacent restaurant and we are set to hit the bed. This is when we decide to explore the place a bit more. Rahul, Ashu, Suhas, Vaijan, Anup, Prashant and I head towards thick foliage with no destination planned as such, while the remaining stay put near the temple outskirts. The temple was to close at about 10:00pm so we could loiter around till then. After a dense path, we finally reach a wide open plateau. Just to make things interesting, we switch off all the torch lights and sit in a circle and while away time. The Amavasya night made things all the more interesting. Finally at about 09:25 pm we decide to head back to the temple. Rahul, Anup and I had earlier spoken to the temple security guards’ to let us sleep in the temple. He was fine with it but then later we got a better place in the adjacent durbar type stadium. A bit of cleaning and most of us hit the ground by 10:15pm. Sleeping mats and bags were scarce. So we had to spread out the bags on newspapers. Bedsheets were scarce too! Most of us spend the night shivering under the sparse bed sheets. A marvelous night spent listening to dog wails and human snores J .

Aug 31st

The alarm hoots at about 05:15am and I wake every sleeping soul in the team. It’s close to 06:30 by the time everyone finishes his obligatory duties and we decide to leave the stadium towards Ganesh ghat. We’d targeted the 4:00PM train to Pune from Karjat. Moving on those time lines we had to leave Bhimashankar by 07:00 am. Though we’d initially planned to re-visit the spot that we’d been to late last evening, it had to be skipped.

With some more help from the villagers we find the trek path back to Khandas through Ganesh ghat. We take almost an hour to reach the Ganesh Ghat-Shidi Ghat bifurcation. A quick breakfast here and we start off towards Ganesh ghat. We’d heard Ganesh ghat was a pretty simple trek path. It’s just about following the path downhill. Rahul, Ashu and Vaijan more or less keep the pace by leading way ahead. The rest of us follow a bit leisurely. By around 12:00pm we reach Khandas village. The eleven of us hustle in a sever seater Minidor and head to Khasheli village. Another Minidor from here gets us to Karjat station by 2:00pm. The train was at 4:00pm so we did have ample time. A sumptuous lunch followed by a much needed Sugarcane juice and we proceed to the station. The tickets that Rahul had booked were on WL so we had to book tickets afresh.

Anup, Parin, Prashant, Sourabh, Rahul, Trupti, Ashu and I decide to leave for Pune by a Passenger train at 03:30pm instead of waiting for the express at 4:00pm. We get seats but still hurl over to the upper birth, spread the sleeping mats there and sort of settle down totally. The 2.5 hr journey back to Pune is spent playing funny yet interesting games. As I head back home at 06:00pm, it finally sinks in me that Bhimashankar is finally struck in my to-do trek list.

Details:

Team :11

Route: Swargate ->Khopoli ->Karjat Phata ->Karjat ->Khasheli ->Khandas | ShivajiNagar ->Karjat ->Khasheli ->Khandas

Distance: Karjat ->Khasheli : ~30kms | Khasheli ->Khandas: ~13kms

Altitude: ~3650ft. above MSL.

Endurance: High | Difficulty : Ganesh ghat -> Medium ; Shidi Ghat -> High

Time : Uphill: 4.5hrs. Downhill: 4.0hrs

Transport: Train to Karjat: 6:00am from Shivaji Nagar | Karjat -> Khasheli : ST at 10:00am or TT for 16Rs. Per head | Khasheli -> Khandas: TT for 15rs per head.

Important Directions:

  • Once at Khandas town ask for directions towards Bhimashankar. Keep walking straight till you reach a small culvert just ahead of a T Junction. The Right path leads you to Ganesh Ghat and the left leads you to Shidi Ghat
  • For Shidi Ghat, Take a left and walk a bit ahead till you find a small Kirana shop. Not very far away take a right and walk ahead. You should be spotting two wells on your left. Walk along the path. Within twenty minutes if you do not spot a small stream / Cascade it’s time to think twice before proceeding.
  • For Ganesh ghat take a right and follow the path. Pretty straight forward path up wards. Probability of getting lost for a sane soul is pretty bleak 🙂 .
  • Once you reach the Bhimashankar peak, to reach the village take a left and move a bit ahead till you find a Pond to your right. The village/ Temple is a straight path from here. Bombay point should be lying to your left as you walk towards the temple. Watch out for signboards en-route.
  • One wild suggestion if you get lost – Take the path to the left. It worked more or less in our case 🙂

Expenses: Rs 250

Stay: Bhimashankar temple / adjacent stadium. Lodging available

Duration: Preferable opt for an Overnight stay.

Best time to visit: Monsoon!

The Katrabai Pass Trek

If you’ve hit this page looking for directions on the Ratangad – Harishchandragad trek; I’m afraid, the bots have routed you to the wrong page. This is a travel tale of 30 wise morons from various places in India, on a mission to accomplish the R-H trek in three days as India rose to it’s 61st year of independence on August 15th. That said, you may want to refer to this link for more info and details. And if you just thought you’re going to find your way out and complete the R-H trek with the help of blogs and posts alone; Be forewarned, you’re surely in for hyper trouble and your close one’s would soon be contacting the forest gaurds to scout for yet another moron. Get the rules right and tread the path with someone who’s been there ample number of times!

The Planning:

Sometime during the month of July, one fateful day; Gourav drops a mail to Abhijeet and Suma on a long weekend trip to Pune for a trek. The plan then involved Kalsubai-Ratangad-Katrabai pass-Harishchandragad for a three day stint starting August 15th. With some cross checking and information from reliable sources, the plan is rejected, condensed, reworked and finally tuned. Two weeks before the dead line the plan is sort of base-lined. A team of 10 from Hyd, 12 from Pune and 35+ from B’lore were to touch base Pune on the early hours of August 15th. A series of conf. calls and mails throng the network in preparation for the I-day trek. Abhijeet monitors the status remotely from Kolkota. Nominations, food and travel arrangements are almost frozen.

On August 12th comes the bomb shell – Incessant rains strike Pune, Dams are full to the brim and a set of places are evacuated. Forecast for the weekend was remotely positive. Nishant gets updates from Nikhil and co. that doing R-H would be a bit dicey. Considering the situation, the B’lore team takes a call and all first time trekkers are given a NO-GO signal. The team is now brought down to 10 from B’lore, 8 from Hyd and 9 from Pune. All of us were to complete Ratangad – Katrabai pass- Harischandragad. The initial option of dropping out after Ratangad is obviated. So one mini bus and Travera is cancelled. At the last moment Nitin, Manzuma, Bhabhani and Balaji pitch in.

The final plan was that a set of seven people – Nishant, Nikhil, Kunal, Ashutosh, Suhas, Nitin and Bhabani would leave for Ratanwadi village by 6:00am and pilot the remaining team. Abhijeet and I would pick the Hyd and B’lore folks in a mini bus and move down to Ratanwadi.

Aug 15th:

Shekar wakes me up asking me for directions to Visapur. Giving him the directions I look at the watch. Damn! It was already 05:15am and I’d asked the Travera driver to be at Aundh by 05:30 am. I quickly contact him and wake him up from his slumber. By 06:00 am he hits for base and we go about the city picking up Ashu, Bhabhani, Nitin , Nishant, Nikhil and Kunal. The vehicle finally leaves for Ratanwadi at around 07:00am. I head back home and prepare a sumptuous breakfast for myself. A few more calls and I head to pick up the Theplas and chocolates that I’d ordered two days back. At 08:45am Gourav calls me informing that the Hyd team would be reaching Pune at about 10:00am. B’lore folks would be reaching at 10:35 am by the Lokmanya tilak express. To be on the safer side I google a bit on the place and important village names. At about 10:00am, Sami and I leave for the station with the mini bus. Siva joins us at the station as we wait for B’lore folks to arrive. A few minutes later the team arrives and as we hurl the Backpacks and other trekking gear onto the vehicle, Donald, Balaji, Sridar and a couple of other folks head to the station master to get the return ticket modified. For some reason this takes a while and we head for Breman circle at about 11:45am. Hyd folks meanwhile freshen up at my house and head for Breman Circle with Suhas. Abhijeet who’s been waiting for a while, gets into the bus at Shivajinagar. We finally leave the city outskirts by around 01:00pm.

The driver for some reason just wouldn’t cross 60kmph even on the Highway and we happen to reach Sangamner pretty late at about 05:00pm. All through the travel Abhijeet and I try contacting the pilot team to get status of the roads and weather there. As we have a late lunch finally we’re able to get the call across and Nishant hints that one of the roads to Bandhardara was blocked due to a landslide and by the time we reach, we may not be able to get a ferry across too. All that we had left was a longer route to traverse through and that would mean adding a couple of hours to the schedule. With no other option in hand we proceed towards Bandhardara through Akole and Rajur across the dam. The travel to the destination goes about with a weird mixture of anxiousness and enthrallment. We have a tough time rationing the Theplas. We were under the assumption that food would be available at the base villages but since we’d screwed the whole schedule totally, We had no other option but to stock them for further use. Bad news peps in soon with Nishant calling us and informing that climb uphill to Ratangad should be avoided as far as possible! We finally decide to split into two groups. Balaji, Manzuma, Sami and Pandey were to trek upto Ratangad and then get back to Pune on Saturday while the rest of the team would meet the Pilot team at the R-H bifurcation and proceed via Katrabai pass to Harischandragad.

At Rajur, we’re advised not to go further beyond Samrad colony as the dense fog and rain would make visibility close to zero. A bit of tinkering here and there in the dense fog and we hit Samrad colony finally. It’s close to 11:00pm. Hunger just adds up to the long travel strain that the B’lore and Hyd folks have had and all that anyone around there was thinking of was to hit the floor as soon as possible. Kedar and Sridhar distribute the Sleeping bags and mats and in a few moments everyone dozes.

Aug 16th:

Morning at about 4:30 am, we’re woken up and by 06:00am we head towards Ratanwadi. Abhijeet and I scout for a route, find the wrong one and lead the bus there. Fortunately a villager redirects us to the right path and from there on we manage to reach the Ratanwadi village. We pay a brief visit to the temple and about 07:45am leave for the R-H Bifurcation with two villagers as we didn’t want to lose any more time. At about 09:00am we reach the bifurcation. The pilot team too happens to reach at almost the same time. We have a quick introduction and from then on decide to walk as soon as possible to reach Kumshet village. After a series of getting lost in the foliage , despite having a guide we manage to reach Katrabai pass at about 11:30am. All that drives us ahead is the assumption that we’d find food in the base village. The road never seems to end and it takes a while before we reach the village. The moment we reach Kumshet all eye’s scout for a fireplace and a vessel above it. Ah! Surprises never come when you need them. The villagers inform us that had we been there a bit earlier they could have arranged something. Cooking now for 30 of us was simply out of question. Nikhil then informs we may be able to find something to eat at Pachnai village. But for that we’ll have to leave as early as possible as a river was to be crossed. From hearsay we get to know that the river was in spate and crossing it would be very risky and difficult. Theplas had to be kept as the last option and we move ahead after gobbling a set of munchies. Had blessings been tangible, I’m sure I’d be suffocating to death from people showering them on me for having made such wonderful arrangements for food.

Everyone is literally pissed off and we finally take a call. Not one of us walks slowly till we reach Pachnai village. Gourav, Animesh and Kedar brief people and we move on with high spirits. Food at times can be such a motivating factor! More so, if you’ve had literally nothing for the past two days! About fifteen minutes of pure hiking and thankfully we get to see a river flowing about 300 feet below us at the end of the plateau. It’s a breath taking sight from here and we’re literally hooked to this place for about five minutes. ‘Something’ again reminds us of our destination and we head down through the hillock and reach the base.

Learn the Fisherman’s knot 🙂 !

As we near the point where the river is to be crossed we really get to see and feel the real currents. From the 300ft hillock, what looked like a silent stream was indeed a river in full spate. Nishant tries wading through to test and see if the stream was traversable. The rock climbing rope that the B’lore team got all the way from B’lore finally comes to use here. Nitin and Abhijeet wade through the currents to the other side of the stream and tether it to a bark of a tree. While Nikhil and a couple of other folks tag it to a stout tree at this end. One by one each of us cross the stream with the rope’s support and reach over to the other side. You need to have a look at the snaps and videos to really admire the team work that happened across there! Nitin was really helpful in doling out his scout expertise there but I guess the fisherman’s knot was the best part of it all 🙂 ! As we cross the stream and walk a bit ahead, we get to see a village not far across. Moments before we fall under the impression that this could be Pachnai, we’re told by a few villagers that we crossed the stream unnecessarily and we had to head to another place instead of this. From here starts the way back across the stream but from a different point where the current was not that powerful. A couple of villagers help us cross the stream and get to the other side. Once on the land, we had to walk a few more yards ahead and cross another easily traversable stream and finally we hit land for good. I wonder what we would have done had we not carried the ropes along with us!

Trust your instincts.

The stream crossing sort of re-vitalizes us and we move ahead towards Pachnai. Walk, Walk and Walk was the sole mantra! Two hours and still no sight of any village. Every turn round the corner we hope in vain to spot a villager, but then Murphy always wins! At around 7:00pm, the gap between the team widens and people slowly start giving up. To avoid blackout’s we finally remove the penultimate reserve of Theplas and chocolates. About twenty minutes is spent flat in the middle of the road. Siva had brought some sweet bun and mixture. We’re least bothered of anything, as we rest in eternal glory chomping on the little food that we had in our hands. Having regained a bit of energy the ten of us walk along the path. Rains are something that we now start detesting! Dusk looms and we get our torches outside. Not one of us is really sure if we’re moving on the right path. All that we knew was that we had to keep moving on and on till wherever the road leads. At a certain point the road bifurcates into two. Tired of taking decisions we follow our instinct and take the road to the left. Finally after about thirty minutes of walk we come across a tarred road. A bit of relief thumps in our veins. The tarred road for sure meant we were heading to a village – How far was an issue, but then we at least had a goal now!

Someone’s found us!

As the quest for human beings continues, somewhere far ahead we hear a double whistle hoot. Boy, Oh! Boy. We’re overwhelmed. I instantly pull out the whistle from the sling and respond the call. We run a bit ahead and make sure the call is from one of our folks by the adventura whistle code. A bit ahead as we turn round the corner we see headlamps flickering. We’ve finally found the team! In a few moments we have Nikhil and Donald running in our direction. They guide us along a bit ahead and inform us that they’ve found the Pachnai Village. Food arrangements have been made and everyone in the team is safe! We’re sure had Donald and Nikhil not traced back the route to find us we’d stopped right at the spot where the tarred road was submerged by a small stream in spate. We finally make it to the village in about fifteen minutes guided by a villager. These villagers rock!

The expressions on the faces of everyone, as we huddle in the cow-shed warming up in front of the Kerosene lamps is something that I’d never forget! As the Besan dal and rice go down the our throats, a burning sensation grips the flow. Getting to eat proper food after about two days of hiking,wandering and losing the way is heavenly pleasure. Every little step becomes painful and all that anyone was looking forward to was to hit the floor. Nikhil and Nishant help in sorting out the temple floor for everyone to sleep.In moments we’re equivalent to dead logs!

Aug 17th:

At about 7:00am after a hot cup of milkless tea, Nikhil, Nishant, Kunal and Nitin decide to move ahead to Harishchandragad. The Hyd team had to reach Pune by 4:00pm and not many from the B’lore team were ready to walk another mile. The final action plan was to reach Pune ASAP! We had to contact the drivers of the Mini bus and the travera as they’d not yet reached Pachnai village as asked to. As there’s no network coverage in the village, Our host at the village volunteers to take us to a place about 3kms from here where we could get coverage. Once we reach this spot and dial the numbers, we’re in for more surprises! The drivers are not reachable. With no option left, we decide to walk another 4kms and reach lavaii village from where we could PROBABLY find a means of transport to Khireshwar and then to Pune. Abhijeet and I have literally no idea how we’re about to spell this out to the B’lore and Hyd team. As we almost come to a conclusion that the Hyd team would have to miss their train, round the corner the Pink Satava mini bus followed by the Travera winds up the road. Phew, We’re more than exhilarated!

The Hyd team leaves in the travera and later we get to know they’d reached right on time. The remaining twelve of us head for Rajur hoping to get news from the other four who’d started their climb up Harischandragad. All attempts to contact them turns futile as none of them are reachable Finally at about 02:00pm we get a call from Nishant from a village booth giving us their location. At about 05:30pm we reach NarayanGaon and stop there for tea. As we have a befitting snack, Nishant calls us and lets us know that they were somewhere close to Junner and would be able to make it to NarayanGaon in probably another thirty minutes. At about 07:00pm the group of four finally make it to the place where we were waiting and we head towards Pune. At 11:30 pm as I make the final payment for the vehicles at Aundh and head back home and recall the eventful past three days, I’m reminded of the first mail that Gourav had dropped 🙂 .

Most of us haven’t covered Ratangad and Harischandragad as planned. But I guess, there’s a lot of learning and enriching experiences that we’d take back home from the villages that we’ve hit.

I wish I could capture the moment when people got to see real food on the second night at the Cow-Shed! That would have been the Kodak moment of the trip. As Abhijeet once put it, Trekking is not all about reaching the peak, It’s the expressions that you get to see on the faces of people at times that makes the trip all the more enriching. Miles to go before you Sleep !

The Raireshwar trek

The Bombayz had come down to Pune a few hours before I reached home after rappelling at Kondividi. 10:30 pm at night,Tiwari and Pranesh join us for dinner at Rasoi Ghar. It’s been close to a year that I’ve had dinner with any of my Engg. mates. This time during dinner, there are no tickets to ponder on, no actions items to be worked upon, no resolutions to be done; Just plain simple talk pulling each others legs! This would probably be etched as one of those few dinner’s I’d remember for quite sometime. We reach home at about 11:30pm. I hit the ground with an aching knee reminding me of today morning’s incident while rappelling. At times, pain is pleasure!

10th Aug

My alarm hoots at 04:45 am. While Chandru gets ready in a jiffy, I literally kick sriram and get him on his toes. Sunil had come down to my place yesterday night. Hitanshu’s almost done with his morning breakfast. Suhas finally makes it to Aundh at about 05:40am. Suhas, Sriram and I hire a rick to ShivajiNagar bus stand. Half way through, I get a call from Akhilesh telling me the Bus to Bhor was to be boarded at Swargate and not at ShivajiNagar as I had mentioned in the final coordination mail yesterday. Damn! This is when it looms over me that what he said made real perfect sense. For the Rohida trek too we’d boarded the bus to Bhor at Swargate and not at Shivaji Nagar. I’d asked everyone to reach Shivajinagar by 6:00am and here I was to ask them to come over to Swargate again. As I call people and inform them of the change, I literally hear them swearing on me for my timely notice 🙂 .

The bus to Bhor was at about 06:45 am. Twelve of us – Akhilesh, Ashish, Arjun,Suhas, Swati, Hitanshu, Sourabh,Sriram, Shekar, Sunil, Rohit and I board the bus while Soujanya narrowly misses it. We decide to proceed and wait at Bhor. At about 08:15 am we reach Bhor. We had to reach Korla village which is about 20kms from here, to start the trek to Raireshwar. The next bus to Korla was at about 09:00am. Suhas and I decide to talk to the local guys there and arrange for a Jeep. After some deliberations we hit on a guy who accepts to drop us and pick us from the base village for 550Rs flat. We’re more than happy and strike the deal. It would take at least another half an hour for Soujanya to reach Bhor, So we decide to have breakfast at Bhor itself. At around 09:00am Soujanya finally makes it to Bhor and at 09:15am we depart for Korla. The thirteen  of us hunch into a Jeep. Ashish, Shekar, Sriram sit on the front troubling the driver right from the start while Hitanshu, Akhilesh and I hang out from the rear of the Jeep enjoying the drizzle as the vehicle speeds up the road to Korla. About five kms ahead of the Korla village we come across a thumping river crook. The sheer force with which water was making it’s way out of the canal was simply exhilrating. A few minutes here and we move ahead to the village. At about 10:00am we reach the base village and start the trek.

From the Korla village a diversion to the left takes you to Kenjalgad fort while the one to the right takes you to the famous Raireshwar temple and village. As we start walking up through the clearly paved road up to the village, we have an uninvited guest who further happens to be the 14th member in the team. Dogs are known to be pretty faithful beings and they follow you everywhere you go. But I guess it’s the other way round when it comes to hills. You’re compelled to follow them 🙂 !

The path up to Raireshwar for the most part of it is already clear cut. But what’s really spectacular about this place is that, unlike any other fort/ hill village; once you start from the base and walk a few yards ahead, You’d be walking literally through paths surrounded by high rise hills everwhere around you and it all looks so spaced out that you’re really showered down by the magnanimity of Nature. The incessant drizzle at a distance makes you feel as if Nature’s trying to unveil it’s creation slowly through a striated screen. It looks so damn beautiful that you’re literally left spell bound. The innumerable falls that rise out of nowhere keep you on your nimble feet and every turn round the hill only gives way to more picturesque landscapes!

Half way up the hill, we come across a person by name Gopal who says he could arrange food for us up there in the village. He then suggests he’d get there to the village and prepare food by the time we reach there. What he said made perfect sense so we agree. A waterfall on the way keeps us busy for a while and even before we realise we’ve almost spent close to half an hour there. Finally we decide to move further and cover quite some distance. At one point we come across a diversion and decide to take the one that went upwards. A ‘No Overtaking’ board round the corner indicated that this road was slowly being developed to help ply regular vehicles up the fort. We follow the path mindlessly only to realise a while later that we’re on the wrong path.. A frail old village woman finally guides us in the right direction and we tread forward. From here on, the further we go, the better it gets! There’s this particular spot wherein you climb up a small hillock and the moment you reach this spot and look ahead you get to see a massive rock ahead of you and a series of cascades to either side of it. A splendid combination of Beauty and Magnanimity, I would say!

From this spot, to reach the Raireshwar village you need to climb a series of about 3oo steps. At the end of the climb a metal staircase has been built to facilitate easy climb for the regular villagers. But for this, the climb up would have been really difficult. Once we reach the top of the hillock and walk a few yards ahead, we get to meet a person whom Gopal had sent in search of us. This guy leads us to the village temple which is believed to be the spot where Sivaji took his oath to Swaraj.  Based on the land they own each villager is given authority to maintain the temple. A small but extremely well maintained one! We then move over to Gopal’s house for a sumptuous lunch. None of us realised how cold it was up there until we sat still in the house for sometime. The moment we enter his house and settle down, cold fumes come out of our body! Sriram literally sits beside the stove to keep himselves warm. At about 3:00pm we leave from Gopal’s place and start out trek down. The way downhill is done with in about an hour and a half. The Jeep driver is a bit cross with us for having turned up almost an hour late, but a few minutes with the Bombayz is all it takes to get him back to form. The next bus to Pune was right in the Bhor Bus stand. The Bombayz too are compelled to get back to Pune and from then on move over to Mumbai as they’re left with no other option.

On a personal front, I’d rate Raireshwar to be my second best trek. Most of the credit goes not to the endurance or difficulty but to bounty that Nature’s got in store for you here!

Details:

Team :13

Route: Swargate -> Bhor -> Korla village -> Raireshwar/ Kinjelgad

Distance: Bhor -> Korla village [ 20kms ] Korla -> Raireshwar [~8kms]

Altitude: ~4250ft. above MSL.

Endurance: Low | Difficulty : Low/Medium [ At the fag end ]

Time : Uphill: 3hrs. Downhill: 1.5hrs

Transport:Reach Bhor by Bus from Swargate [ 6:45 am ; 07:30am ], Bus to Korla from Bhor is at about 09:00am. Jeeps available if required.

Expenses: Rs 180

Stay: At Raireshwar village

Prominent Spots:Raireshwar temple , Kenjalgad fort.

Best time to visit: Monsoon!

Waterfall Rappelling at Kondividi

The blue tarpaulin sheet suddenly gives way and my feet impulsively tries to gain hold on the rocks. I lose grip and one of my slippers hits the rocks about hundred and fifty feet below. Even before I have time to think on what’s apparently gone wrong I foolishly tag the rope in my left hand instead of the right. And just one thought zips in my mind.. Damn! I shouldn’t have volunteered to be the first one to rappel down!

Aug 8th:

I pick the 4:00pm service back to Aundh and reach home at about 4:45pm only to learn that I didn’t have the room keys with me. A brief sprint towards Breman Circle and I manage to hitch a ride to Pune station. As Bhavana and Nikunj make their way from Kothrud , I purchase onward tickets to Karjat for the 6:30pm Indrayini express. At about 8:15pm the train hoots into Karjat. Amps travelling from Mumbai was to be at Karjat at around the same time. In about ten minutes she joins us. The plan was to camp at Kondu’s place at Kondividi that night. Folks from the Dhumketu trekkers group were to reach Kondividi early the next morning.

At about 09:00pm we get some light dinner packed for the night. Means of commutation to the Kondividi village is pretty scarce. Thankfully, for 250 bucks a rick. driver agrees to take us there. The 20kms of travel on the kutcha road devoid of any lighting with rain pouring all way through made for an indeed interesting start! To add thrill to the already distraughted travel , the rick’s headlight kept blowing off every time the rick bumped on the pothole ridden road. At about 09:40pm we reach Kondu’s place. As I learn later, Kondu’s place has been a vital pit stop for Dhumketu trekkers for quite some time now. We’re provided a warm welcome and a lady sets up the courtyard of their house for us to sleep. After a quick dinner we hit the floor. Sleeping in an open courtyard of an old village house with rain splashing on the extended roof of the house is not something that you get to experience nowadays! Besides company of a smelling dog all night long is also something that you never get to experience 😉 .

Aug 9th:

At about 02:30 am the Dhumketu trekkers core team arrives from Mumbai. The dog’s given me company long enough to keep my nose and eyes shut. At about 06:30 am we’re woken up from our slumber by Sanjay. In five minutes we’re up and start walking towards the Kondividi caves. The hike up till there reminds me of the Rajmachi trek. Kondividi caves is at the base point of the Rajmachi trek at the Karjat side.

By the time we reach the caves, the DT team had almost completed setting up the ropes for the rappelling. A blue tarpaulin sheet was being setup from the 150 odd feet rock to avoid bruises while rappelling down. A quick cleaning up of the caves and we’re set to have a great time. The Pune team was yet to reach so Nikunj and I hit to the waterfalls, while Bhavna and Amps pick a conversation with Sanjay and team. At about 10:30 am we decide to start rappelling. A quick climb up the hillock through the left side and we reach the top. Just another small yet powerful waterfall grabs our attention. A few minutes under the frothing waters and we’re asked to get back and adorn the rappelling gear.

Bhavna and I volunteer to be the scapegoats. This was my second attempt on Rappelling. The first was during the Skandagiri trek at Bangalore almost a year back. As I straddle the rope against my body, position my feet and let my body loose giving full control to the rope and the descender; a chill passes down my spine for no apparent reason. I get the go command and slowly start descending the cliff. The first few steps backwards and I already start faltering shamelessly by bending my knees and not giving appropriate distance to the feet. A stern look from the person above gets me back to my senses and I slowly gain control.

Rappelling at Kolar caves was on a low height, dry and flat surface all the way to the bottom. There you could get support from the vertical side too. But here after a few feet from the top, the cliff caves in and you have nothing to get grip on. The blue tarpaulin sheet in a way was misguiding and even before i knew the cliff was caving in, my left foot prods through the tarpaulin, trying in vain to get hold of something. One look down and I see one of my slippers hitting the rocks below. The rope suddenly swivels and I literally hang in thin air almost 100 ft above the ground – all at the mercy of the person controlling my speed of descent. In anxiety I let loose more rope from my left hand instead of holding it close to my body . Down I go faster than gauged. Fortunately, I soon gain control and stabilize myself. From then on the descent down goes pretty subtly and in about thirty seconds I touch ground! Bhavna follows suit in a few minutes. And it’s all done!

Nikunj and Amps warn me twice before I rappell down to click shots of them rappelling once I reach the base. I pick the cam from the bag and move over to a suitable place to get the snaps. In about another ten minutes they’re done with the rappelling too. It’s close to 11:00am and the team from Pune hasn’t yet turned up. Nikunj , Amps and I get back to the falls and spend almost an hour or so in the freezing waters. The pressure in the falls has tremendously increased. I finally manage to find my lost slipper amidst the rocks . At about 11:30am the Pune team finally arrives. DT folks give them a general precautionary briefing and starts the rappelling activity for them pretty soon. As we get out of the falls Bhavna asks Nikunj for a pic. This is when we realise someone’s stolen the cam from the bag. All cellphones, wallets and cards seem to be intact.There seems to be no leads as to when and how someone could have flicked it off!

Finally we decide to leave Kondivide by around 2:15pm. Amps was to get back to Mumbai and Bhavna had booked return tickets for three of us by the Deccan Express at 6:00pm from Karjat. So we had to rush! Bhavna’s throat gives in for no reason and she barely manages to speak a few syllables. We’re literally left penniless and hunger seems to be growing by the minute. Finally, At about 08:00pm we reach Pune station.

On another dimention, the Bombayz had already reached my home at Aundh. Nikunj drops me at my place at about 09:00pm. Pranesh and Tiwari join us for a sumptuous dinner at Rasoi Ghar and we head back home at about 10:30pm. As just another exciting day comes to an end, and as I hit the bed, I set the alarm to 04:45 am. The Raireshwar trek was planned for Sunday  😉   .

The Visapur-Lohagad trek


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There are three reasons why I’d not forget this trek! The first being, I wasn’t the youngest member in the team; the second being we had a 10 year senior,quite oblivious to us, sitting silently listening to all the *facts* about organisations and policies that we were putting forward; the third would get pretty evident as the print runs through till the end of this post!

01st August:

I manage to fling the much awaited Sev2 resolution off the DS3 connection and zip across the eggs to board the 9:15 service back home. Thankfully , there’s a seat left just beside Walia in the Medipoint bus. Even before I get to settle down, my cell beeps with an unknown caller at the other end. Chetan, I re-collect had not responded to the mail that I’d fired sometime earlier in the day. He’d called just to enquire if he could still make it for tomorrow’s trek. Some cross checking and linking and we’re all set for co-ordinating tomorrow’s trek. Walia bangs his head to the seat in front of him. Damn! You never change . He’s got no questions to ask on my plans for the weekend!

02nd August:

A couple of wake up calls gets me back to real senses and at about 5:30am I rush towards Aundh Junction where Prayank and Vishal were to pitch in. Hitanshu soon joins in a few minutes and we manage to reach Shivaji nagar station by 6:05am. Rahul, Vishal and co have been waiting there right from 5:30 am ! Soon people pitch in and by around 06:15 the final count swells to 26. Lohagad-Visapur spells out to be a sequel to the Koraigad trek. The 6:30 local to Lonavala pulls into the station right on time. Rahul,Trupti,Abhijeet, Chetan and I hurl ourselves into a coupe and soon in minutes everyone gets into form. From nowhere a heated up discussion starts about job roles, company issues, policies, coding goofs and what not. Amidst all this Hitanshu just confirms with others if none of us were Job band D or above. Wonder why the ball was never thrown to Chetan. This chap remains silent all through the discussion and just keeps smiling now and then. Later we get to know the reason for that wierd behaviour of his. 10 years of Experience does take it’s toll. NOM 🙂 !

We reach Malavli station at about 8:00am. You’ve got to reach Bhaje village which is about 2kms from here by walk and from there on start towards Visapur/Lohagad. Dhok who’d been here before leads us through the follow-up over-bridge above the Express highway to Bhaje village.As our order of VadaPav and Chai gets processed, probably for the first time ever in DH’s trek history we have a formal introductory sesssion 🙂 . This big a size definitely called for a formal introduction! As people go about introducing themselves to the group, we get to know there’re about seven folks less experienced than me in Infy. I’m on cloud nine! Nothing really spectacular about it. But I guess small things do make a difference 🙂 .

At about 9:30am we start moving towards Visapur-Lohagad. Just a few yards away from Bhaje village, you get to come across a beautiful waterfall. Though a couple of us decided to cover this in the latter half of the journey, not many of us could control our anxiety to get under the chilling falls. Dhok and Swati are blessed with minor bruises. Probably, you could call it a sacrifice that they’d pledged to nature! About half an hour here sets the right spirits and we sprint over to the main path and get back on track. The road from here is pretty much well laid out and is motorable to a certain extent. In about an hour or so we happen to reach the Visapur-Lohagad diversion. Lohagad stands to your right and Visapur to your left. A small confusion pops in as to which is the right place but soon it all precipitates down and we decide to finish Lohagad first.

Giving consistent company to the monkeys, We hit Lohagad peak in about another hour or so and while away quite some time on the fort. One particular spot ( Burj) gives you a spectacular view of the valley below. The gusty chilly wind and the mist make it all the more beautiful. At the other end of the fort , there’s one another spot wherein the thumping force of the winds on the bulwarks, literally raises water from the down flowing cascades and spews it across all over causing an illusion of rainfall happening in the reverse direction.I’ve never experienced this powerful and scenic a phenomena as this till date.We loose track of time and even before we realise it’s already 3:00pm. In twenty minutes flat we hit the base and have a quick lunch. By four we reach the Visapur – Lohagad diversion. To have consensus and re-confirm if everyone was fine with doing Visapur a poll is done. Not surprisingly, everyone’s game for it.

Patience pays when Reasoning doesn’t!

The Visapur trek starts at about 4:30pm. Rahul, Trupti, Dhok, Prayank and I happen to walk a bit ahead of the group and even before we realise, we make our first mistake – Loose track of the actual place where a diversion is to be taken to climb up the fort. Fortunately, we get to meet two people who’d already lost track before us and were on their way back looking for the actual path. You’ve got to take a left a few minutes after you take a left at the L-V diversion . The path from here to the fort up there is an awesome piece of the whole cake! Indeed thrilling to climb up the small rocks amidst water flowing through the whole path. As none of us were sure of the path up the fort, a few of us had to stay put in between while Dhok, Prayank, Parin, Rahul explored further. Abhijeet and I try in vain in exploring for a simpler route. Finally at about 5:15pm, having got not much of a positive response from the folks who’d gone a bit ahead to check for the path, Abhijeet gives the NO-GO signal and part of the team heads back to the base diversion point. I was sent to get back Dhok and a couple of others; but it so happened that I ended up reaching almost three forth of the climb so didn’t mind getting to the top altogether 🙂 . At about 6:00pm Dhok, Parin, Akhilesh, Prayank and I head back downwards through the cascades to the base and meet up with the rest of the team who’d been waiting there. The moment I arrive, Abhijeet pulls me out and takes me away from the group. I was almost sure he’s going to give me a sound bashing for not having followed his advise and got back the people who’d ventured before me. Surprisingly he takes me to a small diversion just before the path we’d taken and shows me the path. One pointing made everything crystal clear – We could have taken the whole team up there and avoided the cascade climb 🙂 . But damage was long done!

The sprint back to the base:

Visapur was indeed the apple pie of the Visapur-Lohagad trek. Probably this weekend trek wouldn’t have been as interesting as it was had we not covered Visapur. Vishal and I sprint all the way from the diversion to the base village Bhaje in about 15 minutes. We come across another waterfall that we had not stopped during our climb up and decide to jump in with no second thoughts. This waterfall was far more powerful than the first one and indeed pretty much comforting after the sprint. It starts raining heavily and only then do i realise that I’d left my Cell without much protection in my bag. Ah! There it goes…Plop – Contact service.

A quick bout of vada-pav’s and we board the 7:30pm local back to Pune. To be frank, neither of these two forts can be counted in as treks. I would put them in the Hiking bucket instead. But I guess it’s the smile that you get to see on people’s faces when they hit the peak after a tiresome climb up the hill that really brings in the vibes!

Hike Details

Team Count :26

Route: Shivaji Nagar –> Malavli ( One stop before lonavala) –> Bhaje village –> Visapur-Lohagad diversion –>(Right at diversion)Lohagad climb –> Lohagad Descent–> Back to Diversion –>(Left) Visapur climb–> Waterfall/ Cascade climb uphill–> Visapur Descent ( same route ) –>Back to Diversion–> Bhaje village –> Bhaje caves –> Malavli station –> Shivaji Nagar (Pune)

Distance: Malavli –> Bhaje village (2.5kms). Bhaje village –>Diversion (3kms). Lohagad Uphill (1km) Visapur Uphill (1km)

Altitude: ~3600 FT above MSL

Endurance: Medium | Difficulty : Low / Medium [ taking into account climb up the cascades]

Time :Malavli- Bhaje village: 15mins; Bhaje village to Diversion: 45mins; Diversion to Lohagad peak : 30mins. Diversion to Visapur top : 30mins.

Transport:Reach Malavli by train. No other transport required to Bhaje village.

Expenses: Rs 75.

Stay:Not Explored. Bhaje caves could be a probable place.

Prominent Spots: Bhaje caves, Lohagad kada ( A hole formed on a part of the fort / rock formations because of the wind pressure ).

Best time to visit: Monsoon!

 

The Rajmachi Trek

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Boy, Oh Boy! For the past two and a half months, I’ve been pampering hard ground every weekend ; but believe me,  I’ve never been this satisfied as I am today after the trek. It’s been an adventure in the real sense! Walking through the dense vegetation with no idea where, when or how we’re going to turn up, not even remotely bothered of what could have been happening in the cities out there; losing paths and realising it after you’ve covered two or three kms;Tramping the 40+ kms in the splintering rain stopping just for nourishment en-route right from 09:00am all through till 09:00pm; taking respite in those scores of waterfalls rejuvenating our muscles and senses; crossing knee deep torrential streams just to find another just a few kms away; Groping to find directions in the dark.Phew! Indeed been one of THE best treks I’ve covered till date during my brief stay here in Pune.

July 25th:

Even at about, 3:00pm the count for this weekend trip stood at four. Blame us for not planning things ahead. Dhok! Abhijeet and Rahul were pre-occupied with personal work. Just as I’m about to drop plans to have a trek this weekend and plan to head for mumbai, Suhas calls and says he’s game for the weekend, come what may. In moments we decide to head for Rajmachi and drop a mail to the DH group and the Infy BB. Surprisingly and thankfully we do not have many takers this weekend. Neither of us had been here before and all we had was blogs and posts elsewhere to guide us till the end; so but for Ashutosh we did not consistently prod anyone to join us. Besides, Dhok had mentioned the plan that i’d sketched was a bit too far-stretched and we’d have to run against time if we had to get back to Pune that very day.

Suhas calls me sometime at night tells me that the trek route that I’d decided upon would be a bit strenuous and we should consider the Lonavala side instead.  Bet he’s still accusing me for not having payed any heed to his advice 🙂 .

July 26th:

Post his night shift, Suhas gives me a call at around 04:30am letting me know that he’d be at my house in ten minutes and damn! he’s right on time at my doorstep. Gaurav drops a message that he and a friend of his wouldn’t be joining us. Vishal, probably deep in slumber, doesn’t even pick up my wake up call. The final count ends at five – Akhilesh, Sunil, Suhas, Ashutosh and I.

We’d to board the 6:12 Sahyadri passenger to Karjat. Akhilesh boards  it at Shivaji nagar, while the remaining four of us board at Khadki. I spend the two hour journey deep in sleep while others enjoy the sahayadris at Lonavala. We reach Karjat at 08:15 am, hit on vada pav’s for breakfast and head quickly to the Karjat bus depot only to realise that we’d just missed the 08:15 service to Khandpe. The next bus was at 09:45am. It didn’t make much sense to waste time there so we pick a rick. to a popular place called ‘Bridge’ and from there move over to the Khandpe village in a Tum-Tum. The driver suggested he would drop us at Kondane but we decide to get down at Kondivane and trek from there.

The road less taken huh!

We’re at Kondivide at about 09:30am – right as planned. The villagers guide us in the right directions; fortunately, we had Suhas who could help us out with Marathi. Nature seemed to hint that we’re in for some trouble right at the moment we set our foot at Kondane village. We reach a Y forked road and decide to take the right arm and move ahead. A few more enquiries and we seem to be on the right path. At about 10:00am we manage to reach a place which remotely looked as the base point of the actual trek. It’s been raining heavily for the past few hours and there are no signs of it subsiding any time soon. Just to re-confirm we ask a few people if it was reasonable enough to climb to Rajmachi in this climate. They’re not really affirmative and suggest taking one of the villagers as a guide. But thanks to our eccentric minds we decide to take the final call and move on without a guide.

We’re invited to the dense foliage by murky waters. We had to climb uphill, so by logic we decided to follow the downstreams upwards whenever possible just to keep track of our path. This did help us definitely to a large extent and we soon manage to reach a tableland. A villager was selling corn by the side. That just gave us the much needed energy for the path ahead. We’re then directed to the right path again and then in a few moments trouble looms in again. We again seemed to be heading to nowhere.

Who even wants to be at Kuttralam?

A bit of groping and topographic analysis does help getting us somewhere. Just then the sound of gurgling water happens to surge into our ears and we quickly move in that direction. A small turn to the left and we’re stumped by the force with which water was rising from the rocks after having fallen from a height of about fifty feet. With no second thoughts the five of us head to the falls and spend some mighty good time there. It all looked like a conspiracy by nature to rejuvenate us and guide us along the right path! We’d already been lagging behind schedule so with a heavy mind we leave the falls and move ahead. A bit ahead the path seemed to be a bit laid out and we had reason to believe that we were in the right path at least for sometime. It was indeed difficult to cut short our desires to spend time at the innumerable waterfalls en-route. Every turn ahead had a cascade or a fall!

The Kondane Caves

Totally drenched as we move ahead hoping to find the right path, just another fall invites us. But this was totally different! I remember seeing this particular place in a pic. , as a forward sometime back. A powerful but thin sheet of water falling from a towering height of about 100feet and an architectural splendour in the form of huge caves right behind the falls – Looked like we’d been transmitted over to some time ages before the existence of mankind! These caves had two floors and were very spacious to accommodate about a fifty people easily. This could probably be a wonderful spot to camp at night. Akhilesh and I fancy making the trek an overnight camp but then we decide to leave it as the final option as we weren’t really prepared for it! Later we get to know that these were probably constructed by the Buddhists. The veracity of this is yet to be known though.

Climb up the fort:

Reminded of our final goal and the deadline, we move over with heavy hearts and start climbing. Fortunately from here we manage to find the right path. A bit ahead we encounter Ram Kaka. This old man was from the Rajmachi village that is at the base of the rajmachi hillock and he climbs down to the Kondivide village EVERY day to sell buttermilk! Just a few minutes and we’re into think conversation. In about thirty minutes we reach the base village at Rajmachi. A refreshing Poha with a peppy hot masala tea and we’re all set to head for Rajmachi. All spruced up we head for the fort. We walk for about two kilometers unmindful of the path ahead. The splintering rain, shallow puddles with slimy murky waters kept us way too busy! After about a forty five minute walk, the path bifurcates into two. This is when we’re suddenly reminded that we were supposed to take a left just moments after we leave the village. Damn! We nuts have been walking towards lonawala for the past forty five minutes with absolutely no idea where we were heading to! A quick retreat to the base village and we finally find the path to the fort. Half way up the rajmachi hillock, you come to a temple. From here there are two routes – each one takes you to a different fort – Shrivardan and Manoranjan.

It’s been close to about four years that I’ve visited a temple by interest. For some reason, I walk into it. Even now, I’ve no idea what diety exists in it or for that instance what it’s famous for. As I get out of it and look ahead, the mist suddenly happens to clear up and I get to see the phenomenal height of one of the forts and that meant miles to go before you could drop 🙂 ! It started raining heavily as we started the ascent. What  made things more interesting was that we had streams flowing from the top of the hill. The sound of water rumbling down the hill and the chilled breeze swooning across your ears amidst those dense clouds is something that’ll get you moving even when things look a bit dicey! Surprisingly, climb up the fort wasn’t that difficult as it looked.

Hiking back to Lonavala

At about 4:00pm we start our descent to the village and manage to reach Ram Kaka’s place by around 4:30pm. Spicy thali was served almost instantly and after another bout of hot tea we decide to trek down towards lonavala. We could have as well got back to Karjat through the same way we’d come but doing that at dusk would probably be inviting deep trouble. Besides, we had just one torch and getting lost in the dense forest was something we wanted to avoid. Ram kaka was of the opinion that  the Rajmachi – lonavala route was just a plain 3.5 hrs stretched out walk. We leave the hotel at about 5:15pm and the walk back looked pretty simple as promised. About an hour into the walk, we get to meet a group of people moving towards Rajmachi. When asked about the time estimate to reach lonavala, they said it would take us about two and a half hours. We walk further. Again after an hour or so , we encounter another small group. To our surprise the time estimate was made three hours! If what they said was right, we thought we could as well pull the brakes and try looking for a spot to rest for the night! Our instincts get us going and we keep meeting people, each one giving his own version! The hike back to  lonavala is extremely simple . Just a bit of endurance and you’ll have a beautiful scenic walk. There’s this particular spot wherein you need to cross a gushing river in about knee deep water. The close to freezing water literally removes all the pain in your muscles and gets you moving faster! By about 7:45 pm we finally manage to get sight of the lonavala city. A few yards ahead and just as we’re about to feel a bit relaxed, a Y fort turns up! Damn, these Y junctions! We’ve had enough of descision making all through the day that we finally decide to arbitrarily chose one and try our luck. Later we’d come to know that had we moved in the direction we chose, we’d be reaching Lonavala but would be covering another 14kms extra. A couple of night gaurds fortunately get to us and redirect us in the right path. At about 08:00pm we encounter a couple who had just started their night trek towards Rajmachi. The guy says we’d need to walk twenty or so minutes to reach a village and from there we could get tempos to lonavala. The walk goes on and on. Suhas has sapped all his energy and is in no position to handle any more strain. We finally make it to the village but to our dismay they’re no tum-tum’s visible. With no option left, we continue walking . Round the corner a milkman pops and when asked the distance to lonavala, he says – Bas sab, sirf dus kilometer aagae hai. Akhilesh goes ecstatic with the expression on Suhas’s face All of us are equally tired and totally fatigued! I plug in my neckphone to my ears and keep walking, least bothered about the distance to cover. What other option did we have? The path zigzagged and Suhas sways similarly from one foot to another . In fact looking back now, I guess he was the source of inspiration to all of us. Finally at about 08:50pm we get sight of a tarred road. Few yards ahead we manage to pick a rick to drop us at Lonavala station.

At about 09:25pm we manage to reach the station. The next local was at 09:45 pm so we did have some time to relax. Once in the train as we remove our socks, we get to see the toll that the 40+ kms trek and the incessant rain had on us. Drenched from top to bottom and stinking from every corner as we hit the wooden seats in the train, other way-farers give us a sheepish look. Who cares? All that mattered was that we were in a train back and this time none of us were guiding the others to misguide, There were no more Y forks and the best part was that the lead knew the destination.

Now if you ask me – All this struggle and trouble on a weekend , Was it all worth it ?  I’ve no answer to that question. I’ll let the pictures do the talking!

Hike Planning

Team count : 05

Route: Route1 : Shivaji Nagar > Karjat > Khandpe > Kondividi > Kondane > Rajmachi village > Rajmachi fort [Relatively difficult] | Route 2: Shivaji Nagar > Lonavala station > Tungarli > Pambola village >>Rajmachi

Distance: Route1: Karjat -> Kondividi:~15kms, Kondividi -> Kondana: ~2kms, Kondana->Rajmachi peak : ~14kms [Hill climb] | Route 2: Lonavala -> Rajmachi : ~20kms [Simple]

Altitude: ~2100 FT above MSL

Endurance: Medium | Difficulty : Low / Medium based on route

Time : Karjat-Kondividi : 20mins. [TumTum] , Kondividi – Rajmachi village : 3hrs [Excl. of time spent in Waterfalls n caves enroute], Rajmachi village – Rajmach fort: 0.5 hrs | Rajmachi village – Lonavala station: 3.5hrs.

Transport: Shivaji nagar to Karjat : Train at 6:12 am. Buses at Karjat to kondividi: 8:15am , 9:45am. Or pick a TumTum to ‘Bridge’ from there another TumTum to Kondividi/ Kondane. Lonavala to Shivaji nagar: 9:45 pm, 11:00pm, Vehicles: Bikes / cars may be used to reach Rajmachi village during early monsoon – No tarred path.

Expenses: Rs 200 Approx.

Stay:One day / Overnight [ Accommodation available in base village – rajmachi ]

Suggested route: Simple: Lonavala- Rajmachi village – Rajmachi fort [ Flat path walk with shallow streams en-route to cross. To be careful at one particular spot about 2hrs from lonavala where river flow pace may increase at alarming rates all of a sudden].     Medium: Karjat – Kondividi – Kondane [ Scores of waterfalls and Kondona caves-Must see, Overnight camping possible here]

Best time to visit: Monsoon!

Accomodation / Food at Rajmachi village: Hotel Shirish [ Ram: 9881162648 | Suresh: 9850104191

 

The Prachandgad trek (Torna)


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Dhok pings me and Vaibhav at about 4:00pm to let us know that we may have to get to Muralgad on bikes, as commutation by ST may become a problem. There were about eight of us and we weren’t really sure how many would fancy biking to the base. With all this, Muralgad as this weekend’s destination didn’t sound that interesting! I’m not sure whether it was me or Vaibhav who brought about the idea of changing the plan and getting Abhishek to agree on Torna instead. Couple of minutes later, Dhok sends out a mail to the Deccan Highlander group and by about 06:00pm the count stood at 7. Later, I get to know from Suhas, Dhok received a solid dose from him for changing the plan. I’ll let Vaibhav take that honorable priviledge 🙂 .

July 19th

5:00 am as the regular Continental music wakes me up, I’m up in seconds. After the Katraj – Sinhagad trek, this was one of the first monsoon treks that fell in the medium difficulty category and besides, who’d want to miss the oppurtunity of trekking to a place that was approx. 4,600ft above MSL? Ashutosh, Sourabh, Omkar, Vaibhav and I reach Swargate at about 6:30 am. Abhshek Dhok by call, lets us know that he and Abhijeet would be joining us in a couple of minutes. The next bus to Vehli – the base village for Torna, was at 07:30am so we decide to have a quick breakfast at a nearby restaurant. Just as we start moving, Uwaraj and Swarnika pop in from nowhere with their ever smiling faces. Finally we’re 9!

We’re well ahead of time for the 7:30 am bus service. As the bus arrives and people board, we realise they’re not many takers to Vehli. In a way, I’m surprised. Torna is quite a famous destination for weekend treks and today it looks like we’re the only group all set to explore it. The first half of the 65 kms journey goes pretty somber with not much activity from anyone. Soon we hit upon playing Dumb charades and from then the journey gets interesting with people struggling to enact stuff; What with Uwaraj and Swarnika coming with the wierdest movie names!

At about 09:00am, the one and a half hour journey comes to an end and we reach Vehli. Two of Vaibhav’s friends were to join us at the base from Pune. They’d left from Sus road on a bike and were soon expected to reach there. As we wait for them for about fifteen minutes, Vaibhav and Dhok dole out spirit tales of various forts of Shivaji. There’s a belief that the Torna fort is haunted by a Brahmin Spirit who has issues with people staying on the fort overnight. Mythology has it that most of Shivaji’s forts have had human sacrifices to assuage the ‘power’s that may be’ to help them build the fort and maintain them. Before things got murkier and people started concocting wilder stories some noble soul decides to start the trek 🙂 !

In quest of the spirit

Vaibhav,having trekked this place more than thrice led the group. Right at the base, once you walk across the small village households you come across a small cascade where you get to experience that real rustic atmosphere. The sight of little kids joyously fluttering about in the slimy water takes you back to those carefree golden days! As you move further ahead, the hilly terrain begins and the path that you need to follow is more or less starkly demarcated. From the base the peak stands to your left, so somewhere up there you need to be taking a left and keep following the path. Ashutosh , Abhijeet and I somehow happened to trail behind and at one point realised there was a short cut up to a certain point. Our wild instinct gets the better of us and even before we decide logically, we’re amidst shrubs and bushes. The humus soil and the steep climb up make things quite interesting and we manage to reach a level plain about ten minutes ahead of the remaining folks. Omkar, Vaibhav, Dhok, Sourabh and Uwaraj soon get along while Swarnika leads from behind! A quick break there and we start moving along. There’s this particular spot enroute wherein you get to see the towering hillock right ahead of you, a deep valley just below your feet and a cascade at a far distance away. In a way emoting and reminding, where you scarcely fit in this whole huge maze.

The last thirty minutes of trek uphill is indeed pretty interesting. Though you do have railings to support you in case you miss a foot, you’d do pretty good by just scaling up the rocks without their support . This part would have been a bit risky had it rained. Nevertheless, it isn’t something that is too life threatening. The climb uphill lasted for about three hours and we managed to reach the top by 12:30 pm. About a quarter of an hour is spent in the temple courtyard and then we leave to explore the ramparts of the fort. Thankfully, the climate’s in for a swing and it gets pretty misty. At one end of the forts bulwarks you get to have an panoramic view of the Sahyadris. We literally could experience the clash of two clouds! Who even wants to be on cloud nine when you could as well be at a prospective point of electric discharge? Eh! A bit too far stretched but I bet you wouldn’t have experience this even 🙂 .

A few steps to that long arm!

There’s this particular spectacular spot wherein you get to have an extended view of the valley ahead of you. But for this, you had to get down a small iron ladder and then down some slippery rocks and walk a few yards around a narrow path to reach that spot. While Dhok and Omkar stood atop the rocks to give support to those of us who had interest to get down ; Abhishek , Vaibhav, Ashutosh and I trailed on the path a bit further only to get back as visibility was close to zero. The climb back to the rocky base and then up the ladder was probably the only risky and exhilarating part of the whole climb uphill.The Machi on the other side of the temple was pretty inviting too. You had to stoop on your knees and get to the other side of the Gaurd post. Probably this was one of the vital strike back point of those days.

At about 02:00pm we started the trek downhill. But for one particular spot which took a while to bypass the remaining stretch just required you to keep yourself on your feet and keep moving. We had a team of 150+ folks from Iflex who’d come to Torna that same day. Sadly, a few among them had dropped the waste after having their packed lunch. Abhijeet and Dhok happened to notice this and almost half way through the organisers of the ICE team had been at the receiving end !

Had a great time sprinting down the second half of the peak. The thrilling experience of not being bothered about the final destination but just being worried of where to keep the next step and deciding everything and orchestrating it to your muscles in nanoseconds is what I guess keeps me on my toes every weekend.

At about 4:00pm we hit the base. We’d arranged for food for the nine of us at a small restaurant at the base before we started our trek. From the restaurant owner we get to know that the next bus to Pune was at 4:30 which was supposed to leave at 4:45pm. So all of us have a quick lunch and we head back to the stop. Surprisingly, Abhijeet and Omkar had just spoken to a Sumo driver to get us to Pune. The nine of us and four others hunch into a Sumo and head back home! I doze off to glory and by the time I get back to my senses, we almost reach Swargate.

 


Hike Details

Team : 09

Route: Swargate > Old Katraj > Bhor > VelhI village > Torna

Distance: 65kms

Altitude: ~4,600 FT above MSL

Time : Uphill: 3hrs | Downhill:2 hrs [Monsoon]

Transport: Swargate – VelhI [ ST: 06:30am, 07:30am ] | VelhI – Swargate [ ST: 04:30pm, 05:30pm ].

Expenses: Rs 150 Approx.

Stay:One day / Overnight [ Accommodation available in temple – Believe you’ve got to take the keys from the base village]

Best time to visit: Monsoon!

Endurance: low | Difficulty : Medium

Misc. Details: Torna aka Prachandgad is believed to be the first fort conquered by Shivaji after he vowed for swaraj at Raireshwar. The vastness of the fort led to it being named Pranchandgad.


 

Raigad Trek?

Last thursday, late at night as I check my gmail, I happen to get a mail from Shashi with pictures of Kalvantin Durg. Almost instantly I decide to re-plan this weekends trip to this place instead of the Raigad trek. A few minutes later, as I get out of the instantaneous glory; intelligence looms and I realise that the Hyd folks would screw me real bad had any more changes been made! Just a day back I’d changed the previous plan of the Lohgad-Visapur trek to Raigad as the previous one had very few takers initially.

11th July:

As with most of the Deccan Highlander treks, At about 3:30 pm , Rahul sent out a final mailer having details of the almost finalised list of people who’d be joining us for the trek from Pune the next day. Rahul, Vishal, Uwaraj, Ashutosh kumar, Deepak, Nikunj, Amrapali and Ashutosh Dhobhal had been with us for a couple of previous treks. Sneha , Sumitra, Sourabh and Sandilya were the new ones to the group. From HydVentura, we had six folks – Hemant, Varaprasad, Abhishek, Raghu, Deepthi and Khushal who’d be pitching in early in the morning the next day. Santosh was traveling all the way from Bangalore ( a cool 16hrs! ) for this trek. This was going to be our first ever night camping trek for this monsoon season and we had 20 people aready!

12th July

Santosh wakes me up at about 05:45 am by a call telling me that he’d already reached Swargate and would be at Parihar chowk in a few minutes. The Hyd folks arrive at my place at about 07:05 am. The moment they put a foot in my house, I get behind their back prodding them to get ready quickly as we had a bus service to Mahad at 08:00am. Abhishek, Khushal, Santosh and Varaprasad leave as soon as they get ready. Soon Hemant, Raghu, Deepthi and I leave at about 8:00am. We’d just missed the 08:15 bus too and I could sense fumes out of Rahul’s ears as he kept calling, enquiring the status quo every five minutes. I prefer two positions while trekking – either the lead or the sweep. Most of the times, I end up being the sweep and this time I was sweeping even before we boarded the bus! I was the last one to arrive at Swargate and you could guess the emotions on people’s faces as I gave that royal entry 🙂 .

To reach Raigad, one has to reach the Pachad village which is about 20kms from the easily accessible Mahad Village. Mahad is about 120kms from Pune ( Swargate ). Fortunately we had the next bus at about 09:00am. After a four hour long scenic journey through the Katraj-Bhor-Varandha route we reach Mahad at about 01:30pm. The next bus to Pachad was at about 2:00pm. Monsoon and high altitude, makes this route all the more beautiful with cascades at almost every bend and the ghat road adds to the breathtaking view of the Sahyadris. At 3:00pm we reach Pachad and from there manage to reach the base of Raigad in about 10 minutes. Nikunj and Rahul had been to this place before and they’d managed to find an awesome cave right behind the shop a bit up the hill. At that spot you would feel as if you’re inside a skull of a demon which was overlooking the village. Gusty winds whining through the two holes of the cave and exiting from the other side sort of revitalizes you. Indeed a beautiful spot and is a must visit if you ever plan to be to Raigad. The climb up the Raigad hill is just a climb up a flight of about 1500 steps, with a few long stretches here and there.

The Climb uphill

We had planned for lunch at a shop at the base but were compelled to be satisfied with Misal Pav. For some reason he wasn’t serving Thalli’s that day. At about 03:45pm we start the climb. The estimated time for the climb as put in various blogs and sites was about three hours. So right from the base we tried our best in keeping people on their toes all the time . Little did we know that, that timing was put for a dry season trek. An old woman sells sherbat and lemon juice at about 200feet from the base and you do have stalls which would probably be open during Summer. Half way up the hill you have a stupendous waterfall towering at about twenty five feet. We spend quite some time here and then move up to the peak. As you climb up the steps , you gain ascent very quickly and the look of the valley with the winding roads and mist filled atmosphere only gets more panoramic with every step.The visibility margin fades as you reach the peak and you can hardly look beyond a few feets ahead. Even before we realise that we’re reached the top , in about close to two hours we manage to reach the shed that has been constructed by MTDC for visitors. You do have a couple of guest houses but this would do good as much. We junk our bags here and leave to explore the fort.

Unknowingly we split

With real low visibility we fail to keep pace and happen to divide into two groups. Rahul, Nikunj, Vishal, Amarpali, Sneha, Sumitra and Uwaraj moved ahead while the rest of us for some reason failed to trail. Hemant, Sandilya, Deepak, Abhishek, Santosh, Raghu, Deepthi, Sourabh, Varaprasad, Ashutosh Kumar, Khushal and I start exploring the various chambers. We spend quite some time in the Queen’s quarters doing all sort of RDB jumps and keep clicking around. Ashutosh Dhobhal finds his way and joins us from nowhere. He’d wandered to the other side but somehow happened to listen to our howls and managed to track us. As we keep walking ahead we reach a dead end. This is when we wonder where the couple who were walking ahead of us vanished all of a sudden. We’d heard rumors of spirits existing up there and thanks to Ashutosh , Deepak and Sandilya things got lot peppier 🙂 . Fortunately, somewhere near the ropeway we manage to find someone who guided us in the right direction. We find our way back and then enter the ramparts of Shivaji Maharaj’s quarters. Quite close to Shivaji’s Durbar we happen to meet the other group. They’d seen that part of the fort already so we decide to meet at the shed at 09:00pm. Rahul warns us of close to zero visibility near Takmaktok and Nikunj suggested we avoid getting anywhere close to that spot.

Avenue des Champs-Élysées

It’s around 07:30pm and there’s still light all around. Soon in a few minutes it gets dark and the lights are switched on. The dense mist makes the light diffuse out totally and all that you are left with is the moonlight and the torches in your hand to guide you. We explore Shivaji’s chamber’s and his durbar. The spread out durbar, the long pathways and the towering entrance to the Durbar with Mist all around gives you a feeling that you’re on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris . Besides this place I’ve heard is also famous for it’s amazing acoustics. Wonder how people in those ages managed to build such magnificent buildings!

We wander through the supposed Bazar of those days and finally reach the Takmak Tok spot ( Execution point) . Sandilya gets ecstatic and reasons out to pay it a visit. We somehow manage to stop him and proceed to the Samadhi of Sivaji. It was about 08:30pm by then and we decide to get back to the Shed. Way back, Deepak and Sandilya plan to get back to Takmak tok at 01:00am 🙂 .

Camp at base

Rahul and Nikunj had spoken to the attender there to cook food for the twenty of us. Food was ready by the time we hit the spot and after a sumptuous meal we get back to the shed. A huge mattress was provided by the attender at the cost of some self praise and finally after a quick change we hit the floor. To while away time we hit upon Antakshari which went on till about 12:30 am. Not to mention, it was stopped because the manager got pissed real bad listening to us bray with our mighty vocal chords and when he could barely manage anymore we thought it would only be wise to stop 🙂 .

I wonder what we would have done had we not got this place to rest. It rained cats n dogs all through the night. Sandilya was all the while relating it to bullets in a warzone and we also had one spirited soul who kept snoring away in glory. A dog gave us consistent company and Sr. Pinto on an onsite deputation from HSBC made his way under Santosh and a couple of other folks late at night 🙂 .

13th July:

At about 05:30 am I’m woken up by Nikunj and Vishal scurrying around for something. I soon follow steps and explore nature with a bottle of water . Later as we get back to the shed we get to know there were restrooms available a few yards away 🙂 .

Hemant and Varaprasad had to board their train at 4:30pm from Pune. So we decided to leave for the base as early as possible. Soon we were about 13 of us who decided to trek downhill (?) and and the remaining seven stayed back to explore more of the fort. In about 45 minutes we hit the base. From there we arranged for a Sumo to drop us at Mahad directly. We reached Mahad at about 10:30am and from there boarded a bus to Bhor. The bus was pretty much empty and the 2.5 hr journey was quickly spent with dumb charades. From Bhor another bus got us to Swargate by around 3:00pm. Hemant and Varaprasad left for the Station while the rest of us hit back home.

Rahul and Co. I understand from Vishal , had been to Takmak tok and explored more of the fort. They’d got back at about 5:00pm . Reports from them yet awaited 😉 .

A long story cut short – An awesome place to be for a morning climb up the hill. A longer stay up the hill would do good given the long travel that you need to do reach there. And oh yes! Bigger the crowd, better !

Stats:

Team : 20

Route: Pune > Katraj > Bhor > Vandarvadi > Mahad > Pachad > Raigad

Distance: Raigad: Approx 150kms from Pune. | Mahad : ~120kms from Pune | Pachad: ~20kms from Mahad

Time : Uphill: 1.75hrs | Downhill:0.75 hrs [Monsoon]

Transport: Swargate-Mahad [ ST at 08:00hrs, 08:15hrs, 09:00hrs ] . Mahad – Pachad/Raigad footstep base [ ST / Sumo’s].

Expenses: Rs 400 Approx. [ Pune <-> Raigad – All incl. ]

Stay: Overnight [ Accomodation , Prior booking facility available ]

Best time to visit: Monsoon!

Endurance: low | Difficulty : low

The Koraigad Trek

I love Americans! Why don’t they have a lot many more National Holidays?

The last week had been been pretty stuffed up with tickets and deadlines. And damn! Murphy’s always right – they pop up right at the moment you need to leave. Thanks to the American Independence day, this friday was a paid holiday. A much needed break!

Done with some mundane work, I sift through BBC to catch up with some news.Sometime at around 4:00pm the much awaited mail from Rahul arrives – The latest count was 23! This trek was going to be a bit different. The positive response was probably because of the emphasis that was laid on the simplicity of the trek and the late start timing that was decided – But for a few nuts, who would like to wake up early on a saturday morning? 😉

July 5th:

My Desktop back home’s been giving some trouble. Even at around 3:00am I’m still left clueless as to what the issue could have been due to. I finally give-up at around 3:30am and hit the bed. At 6:30am I drag myself out of the bed, the regular set of Saturday wake up calls and I rush to get ready. We’d to reach SivajiNagar station by 7:30am, the latest. Most of us reach happen to reach on time. The count at the station grew up to 25 after a final set of additions and deletions.At about 08:00 am all of us hunched into the local.

We finally manage to reach Lonavala at about 09:30 am.A quick breakfast in a shop quite close to the station and all of us seemed to be set for the trek. This time we had showers right from the start. A group of 25, called for arranging a tempo/mazda. While Rahul, Abhijeeth, Vaibhav and a couple of others were busy deliberating with the drivers, the rest of us whiled away time on the road. Finally they came to an agreement of 1.5 grand up and down. The only downside(?) being a few of us would be travelling in a mini goods truck 🙂 . Nikunj, Vaibhav, Suhas, Bhavna, Amrita, Monica, Amrapali, Apeksha,Nisha and Manasa took the elite class ride 😉 in a Sumo . The rest of us hurled ourselves into the truck. Being the last to get into the truck, Abhijeeth and I had the royal privilege to stand on the support stand at the rear of the truck ! Small deeds that make the trip worth remembering 🙂 .

To the Basepoint

Ideally, had you been in a small group you’d prefer to take a Bus to the Shivapura village which is about 25kms from Lonavala town and start the trek from there. But then again you’d have to check for the bus timings and probably start a bit early from the town. The road connecting Lonavala town and Shivapura village and further down the Sahara city has been maintained exceptionally well. As you gradually gain ascent up the winding roads, you’d be literally driving through the clouds. A shower with varying intensity always gives you company almost all the way through. Enroute you get to see quite a few cascades. If you’re coming down with you’re family, Bunshi Dam and Tiger point would probably be spots which you’d like to visit en-route.

The walk uphill and the uninvited Guest

The Koraigad peak looks highly challenging when seen from the base. But believe me, even my four year old niece would easily tarot up the peak! A path to the left from the base point takes you up to a small tableland and from there you just need to follow the path. If you’re fortunate enough, you could get to walk through streams that flow from the peak. About 20 minutes into the walk you’d be seeing steps up to the fort and from then on it’s just about running uphill. Even before you realise the distance you’ve covered, you’d be 3,000 Ft above MSL. There’s pretty much scope of avoiding the well formed path and climbing up a few rocky patches – That ways you get to gain ground pretty quick and would as well add some fun and spice to the trip. Be forewarned! We did happen to spot a snake en-route . I’m not really sure who spotted it, but we definitely enjoyed the company for a while 🙂 .

Once you reach the peak you realise how deceiving the fort looks from the base. I was expecting to see a small strip of land and nothing more than that. But there was a lot more in store – A vastly spread out table land with a couple of decenly big fresh water ponds and thankfully, they were not even remotely spoilt! A pond looms right as you hit to the peak. A quick walk across the bastions and you’d soon be invited another small pond. With no second thoughts, Abhijeet and I jumped into it in full attire – shorts, t-shirts and shoes 🙂 . We were already wet and probably that would also clean up the clothes a bit 😉 . Soon most of the group joined us from the other side and we did spend quite some time in there. Had real fun plummeting each other into the water. Swimming in that ice cold water with it raining heavily is one of those moments which i’d take back as a sweet memoir. Most of us were out of the pool in about half an hour. This is when It struck to me to remind Abhijeet to get Bhavna singing the ‘Ek thithli’ song. Way back in the truck, Rahul had mentioned she knew the song pretty well and it was up to us to get her singing. I winked at Abhijeet as he came out of water and soon He, Rahul and co. got her to sing. Was real fun listening to it and surprisingly she seemed to remember each and every word of it! Boy, Doordarshan days!!

Tiger point? Huh

We soon started our way down the hill and reached the base point in about twenty minutes. A round of tea at the base and we moved over to Tiger point. This is nothing more than another scenic spot blissfully spoilt by the public. Makes me wonder what’s the point in even visiting the spot to enjoy the scenery aheadnwhen you’re dirtying the ground on which you stand? We moved out of this place in a few minutes and left for Bunshi dam. The crowd was real thick here, so most of us instantly dropped the idea of visiting it. Abhijeet, Vishal, Hari and Vishnu decided to give it a shot and moved ahead. They did have a good time there though. The rest of us hit to a stall and satiated the long deprived rats in our stomachs with Kandha bhajji, Misal pav and Vada pav.

Moments after the remaining four folks arrived and changed, we decided to leave the place and get back to lonavala to catch the 5:30 train. We’d sent back the Sumo, So all 25 of us got into the truck. In about fifteen minutes we’d reached the town. Since we had to catch a train, most of the group left for the station as soon as we got down. Abhijeeth, Rahul, Vaibhav, Omkar and I held back to settle the bill. The driver started demanding 100 bucks extra for no reason at all and soon we picked up a quarell with him. Fortunately we had Vaibhav, Abhijeet and Omkar to help us with the Marathi. At one point of time , thinking that we’d take the bait, the owner said he didn’t want the remainig 700 bucks too. Omkar grabbed the oppurtunity and walked away with the money 🙂 . All of us shamelessly followed. This is when the driver followed us and requested to give back the 700 bucks. In no mood to quarrel further, we gave him the appropriate amount and got to the station.

And Someone just said, Get me those tickets!

In the station there was another episode yet to happen! In the morning, I’dasked amit to purchase tickets to Lonavala. I’d totally forgot about the return. But for eight of us the rest had tickets now. There was only about a minute left for the departure when Abhijeet and I decided to give it one final shot. Rahul handed us over the cash and both of us started a quick sprint to the other platform. Sprint is too small a word! I’ve never ran that fast till date 🙂 . In fact I could literally feel my calf muscles rebounding and the ligaments strenuously pulling up to meet with the pace. Probably this is what is called running on thin air! We managed to buy the tickets and get back to the platform only to see the train moving away from our sight. Was a close call! Probably had we not missed time initially, we would have made it. Nevertheless, we did get comfortable seats in the 6:25 local and reached home pretty comfortably!

A sweet simple trek to enjoys nature’s bounty. Indeed a beautiful place to be!

Stats:

Team : 25 – Rahul,Amrita,Vaibhav,Omkar, Amit,Ashish,Abhijeeth,Hari,Vishnu,Bhavna,Manasa,Nisha,Vishal,Nikunj, Zoher, Sid,Amrapali,Suhas, Apeksha, Khan, Monica,Deepak, and I

Route: Pune > Lonavala > Shivapur village >> Koraigad

Distance: Approx 30kms from lonavala town

Time : Uphill: 30mins| Downhill: 15minutes.

Transport: Preferably hire a cab

Expenses: Rs 150 – Rs 200

Best time to visit: Monsoon!

Endurance: low | Difficulty : low

The Kothaligad trek (Peth)

June 27th

I’m quite surprised! I seem to be the last person to wake up this time! Ideally Suhas was to drop by my house at around 3:30 am after his night shift. When my alarm hoots at 4:45 am, I sense the first drop out for the trek. I anxiously dial his number only to hear that he’d be reaching my house in a few minutes. The routine starts again. The next person on the roll was Rahul- someone well known in our group to doze in mighty glory when his presense is really required. Quite surprisingly, today he picks the call right at the first ring and he pretty much sounded alert enough. So i move on to the next person – Amrita. The call goes on but no one picks. A few minutes later she calls back telling me that even she was very much awake. Ashutosh too was almost set and he’d be reaching Parihar chowk in a couple of minutes.We’d to reach Shivaji Nagar Stn. by around 6:00 am to board the train to Karjat.

At about 05:35am Ashutosh, Suhas, and I meet Amrita at Parihar Chowk and we pick a rick. to Kadki stn. Suhas suggested, that would be closer and that the Sinhagad express would stop there as well. We happen to reach well before time . The train would tentatively reach Kadki at about 06:20am. Rahul and a couple of folks would be boarding the train at Shivaji Nagar and a few others would be joining enroute. Later as Bhavana boards the train we get wind of an interesting episode. Pragya Joshi had overslept and Abhijeet too had to miss the train – For ten minutes Abhijeet’s been at the door of Pragya’s house trying to wake her up while Bhavana was seated in a rick below. One of the tickets were on Bhavana’s name, so she had to make it to the station at any cost. And she did, as Rahul describes later – The ‘Jab we met style 🙂 !

This time the final count was 13. Rahul, Bhavana, Kajal, Abhilasha, Trupti, Suhas, Amrita, Ashutosh, Uwaraj, Swarnika, Abhijeet, Pragya, and I. At about 08:15am we reach Karjat.The latest update of Abhijeet and Pragya was from Amritha – They’d boarded a ST and would be reaching a BIT late. We decide to move further and wait at Ambivali for the two. To reach the trek base one needs to reach Ambivalli and from there walk some distance to the Peth Village.

Start of the trek

A five minute walk to the Karjat bus stand and we get to the know the next service to Ambivalli would be at 08:30am. The following service would be at 09:45am.But again you would have to get down at Kasheli and get hold of a TumTum to reach Ambivilli. We get some VadaPav’s packed and simultaneously inform the details of the bus timings to Abhijeet.In about an hour we happen to reach Ambivalli. The best identification mark for this stop is a small school to the left side,right at the starting of the Ambivalli village. A cement path to the right takes you to the Peth village.

A few other groups had also arrived by then and were sort of relaxing at the tea shop. The latest status quo from Abhijeet was that they’d got down at Khopoli and had picked another service to Ambivalli. A few minutes later we get a call from him telling us that they’d just got down at Ambivalli village and were standing right in front of a school – the irony being that, we were standing in front of a school too but we couldn’t trace them out. A deeper analysis 😉 by Rahul reveals that from Khopoli they’d actually caught a bus to Amboli village and not Ambivalli village . How better can things get 🙂 ?

We decide to move on, reach Peth village and wait for them. Ideally the walk is about an hours quick sprint. In our case though, we took a sweet two hours to reach the village – thanks to the stop over at one of the viewpoints and the quick pace of most of us 🙂 . Nevertheless, it was a beautiful start; what with us trying out all possible short cuts, avoiding the regular route. Also we had a heavy downpour for a few minutes as we reached the village – a much deserved respite post the humid weather.

First sighting of the fort

Once you cover about half of the distance from the Ambivalli village you get to see the Kothaligad fort from the breath taking viewspot . You need to take an escalated embankement path to the left, a couple of minutes after you start from the Ambivilli village. Once here, it’s only about following the well laid kutcha path and reaching the Peth village. Oh and If you’re looking for a couple of short cuts – they’re plenty. It’s all up to you to use your brains and instincts to concort a path from the wilderness!

Somewhere when we were still on our way to Peth, my cell manages to catch the signal and a message is delivered – Abhikeet and Pragya are on their way to Mumbai 🙂 . Getting to Ambivalli from Amboli was something that they decided against. Quite reasonable a decision!

We reach the Peth village base at about 12:30pm. There’s a small hotel types place here wherein you can have a brief stop over for a light snack or tea. Uwaraj and Swarnika catch up with us here at this spot. We get to know that they’d not taken the left and instead moved further into the village right at the beginning 🙂 ! Each of us have a shot of hot diluted masala tea and start moving towards the Kothaligad fort. Our pace was pretty fast from here – probably the masala tea did the trick on the drenched nuts 🙂 ! The villagers directed us at a certain point and from there the trek up was all a quickly guessed out route. We did have a loyal dog to guide us to a certain distance but soon even he ditched us once another doggie wagged her tail!

Half way through the way up the hillock and half the fuses are out. This was Amritha’s first ever trek and she was already cursing all of us mentally for having moved up with that pace. Abhilasha and Swarnika were more of less in the same thought process probably! They definitely did test our motivation skills at aone point of time 🙂 ! Finally we made it to a plateau and now all that was left was to climb up the final part of the fort. This did look a bit steep. Suhas , Uwaraj and Ashutosh tried exploring the possibilities on one side and Rahul and I on the other side. There was no way up! Damn and the way down for us was far worse. We somehow managed to get back to the plateau and rested there for a while. Intermittent showers and the haily winds kept the spirits up though. We started our down trek in about fifteen minutes and by around 3:00pm we reaached the Village.

And we thought we were there!

From there, as we turned back and looked at the height we’d covered and the spot that we’d got stuck up, a major disappointment loomed on our faces. We’d not even reached the base of the Kothaligad fort. All that we’d covered was the base foundation of the fort. The chap from the hotel then told us that we’d chosen the wrong path at a spot – Instead of taking a left we morons had moved rightwards. This is when Uwaraj, Swarnika and Ashutosh suggested we give the trek another shot. We quickly had a poll on who’d like to move up again and after having got a 50:50 status decided to split. Rahul would accompany Bhavna, Kajal, Abjilasha,Trupti and Amrita back to Karjat and Suhas, Ashutosh,Uwaraj, Swarnika and I would give the Kothaligad another shot again. The only dicey thing was that we’ll have to make it QUICK! If we had to target boarding the 6:30 train at Karjat, we’d have to scoop all our energy and move fast, real fast. The return bus to Karjat from Ambivalli would leave at 5:30pm. We hit up on reaching the peak in 1 hour. Swarnika 😉 led the group all the way to the top! This time we took the left turn at the right spot and we had two kids and our ever faithful dog to show us the path. The way up was real good. You had to reach the first plateau and from there take a flight of stairs up the caves to reach the forts bulwarks.This path was pretty much simple and the caves part of the trek upwards was stupendous. Thanks to the constant chitter chatter of Swarnika, we managed to hit the top of the fort in flat 45 minutes. At the caves you have an old woman selling Lemon juice. I bet you wouldn’t want to miss this! We stayed on top for a while and to inform 😉 the first team that we’d reached the peak, messaged them. A brief photo session and we started our trek downwards. This was done in a jiffy – A sweet 15minute run down the mill 🙂 .A quick lunch here and at about 04:30pm started our trek down to the Ambivalli village. The dog led us all the way down to Ambivalli! Also we had Suhas to entertain us with his sliding on the brief cascades and oh yes, did I not tell you – he lost the strands of his shorts somewhere way down and had a Charlie chaplin run down the way ? Now Suhas, We do have a video to prove that, NOM 🙂 .

Meeting deadlines!

We did manage to reach the Ambivalli base point right on time: 05:28pm. The 05:30 service was right on time and fortunately he dropped us right ahead of the Karjat station. The first team had been waiting there for a while and we managed to be right on time again to catch the 06:30 Deccan Queen way back to Pune. Once we reached Pune we decided to have dinner at a pretty famous restaurant at JM Road . A sumptuous dinner with people checking out all sorts of Maharashtrian delicacies. I tasted a yummyDosa types dish made of grounded grains. Well, I dont really remember the name of the dishes as Trupti was the one who ordered it and the Marathi jargon only complicated things 🙂 !

The Kothaligad trek has indeed been challenging. Not because of the endurance but because we had to redo it again! The strict deadlines made it all the more interesting. Probably this place needs a second visit sometime later; now that we know where to take a right left turn 😉 !

Stats:

Trek:1 day trek

Members: 13

Route: Karjat-Ambivali-Peth village base-Kothaligad.

Best season: Monsoon / Winter

Approximate Time : Karjat to Ambivalli – 45mins; Ambivalli to Peth village trek – 1 hr quick sprint; Peth base to Kothaligad peak – 1hr ( Subject to the climate )

Endurance: Medium

Difficulty: Easy-Medium ( Based on route chosen)

Bus timings: 08:30 am – Karjat bus stand to Ambivalli; 05:30pm – Ambivalli to Karjat

Train timings: Sinhagad Express : 06:00am ( Pune Station ) ; Deccan Queen : 06:30pm ( Karjat Station )

Important:

Stick to schedules: Connectivity to and from the Peth village is pretty bleak.

FOLLOW THE DOG: Atleast in this trek rely on the dog’s instinct. Believe me, It really helps! 🙂

Sarasgad Trek

The vote was almost equal – About eight wanted to leave on Saturday and seven on Sunday. So finally we decided to have two batches for the Sarasgad trek.

21st June:

Snehith had come down to my place the night before. We’re up by around 5:00am and start dialling numbers on the cell. A few enlightened souls were still asleep.. and they had to be woken up! Pranav’s already awake by the time I call him. Rahul still hangs in heavenly glory till about 6:10 am. About fourteen of Snehith’s friends were supposed to join us . All drop! Akhilesh arrives at the bus stand well before time. At about 06:25 I get a call from Nikunj saying he’d be joining us soon. Vaibhav, Siddharth and Trupti turn up at 06:30. Rahul’s surprising there at the Sivajinagar bus stand right on time! Finally we’re a team of 12 – Pankaj, Prashant Rathore 🙂 , Falgun , Nikunj, Vaibhav, Trupti, Siddharth, Pranav, Rahul, Snehith and I. Sivanand would be joining us enroute.

We initially had plans to take a bus to Khopoli first and then another to Pali. Vaibhav enquires with the transport officials and finds out that we’ve got a direct bus to Pali at 07:00am. The first half an hour, more or less everyone keeps to himself. Nevertheless a few minutes later most of us get to the rear of the bus and slowly start conversing. Probably it’s been just about ten minutes and wham..Someone ( read Nikunj) clears his throat and starts singing. Prashant falls in line soon. Melody turns to Rhapsody with most of us trying to pitch in whatever we know. People start staring at us but who cares! 🙂

In about three hours, 10:20 hrs, the driver kicks us out of the bus. We’d reached Pali! Pali situated in the Sudhagad Taluk of the Raigad district is famous for Ballaleshvar – one of the Ashtavinayaks. A brief darshan at the temple followed by a quick breakfast and we’re all set for the trek. Localites guide us to the trek base point. From the base point, the trek looks pretty simple. JUst one hillock to cover. This looked just similar to the Rohida fort but for the steep incline at the end. At approx. 11:30 hrs we start the trek. Unfortunately, this time climate isn’t as conducive as it was during the Rohida trek. Air currents were sporadic and humidity was high. We reach a plateau and decide to rest for a while. Pranav on the other hand decides to stay right there instead of moving ahead. We were only four of us trailing behind in the group – Pranav, Rahul, Nikunkj and I – the rest had already reached a higher plateau. Amidst all this, Nikunj direly needed a band to pony his hair. All we had was a datacable 🙂 !

In moments we catchup with the remaining folks. All that was left to reach to the peak now was to climb up the vertical hillock. A flight of gigantic steps manually carved out of the rocks led us up to the top. The climb would have been scary had it rained 🙂 ! Once we reach the top by the stairs we realised, there was a little more to climb. This secton was a bit interesting – A few hairpin turns, slippery rock surfaces and loose gravel. In about 10minutes we reach the actual top. A small Nag temple stands isolated at a corner. We rest a while here by the side of the hillock which had relatively better air flow and then decide to start our downward trek. Pranav had already reached the base temple by this time.

The way down was a cakewalk. All you needed was impulsive feet, a bit of concentration, and control on your senses to zip down the hillock. Rain would definitely have added a silver line! By around 03:00pm we get back to the same old hotel where we had breakfast and have a decent lunch. The direct bus back to Pune was supposed to come at around 04:30pm. We reach the Pali bus stand by around 04:00pm and while away time.. Unfortunately, we’re not the only one’s waiting for the bus. The moment the bus turns into the bus stand, there’s a mad rush to catch a seat. Rahul manages to get a seat. Pankaj and Shivanand wisely jump into the drivers cabin and base themselves properly there. The rest of us stand! The prospects of getting a seat after Khopoli was also pretty bleak, so we decided to switch buses there.

We reach the Khopoli bus stand by around 05:45 pm. As we stand and decide on what to do next, a set of kids barely three years old starts begging for money and as Trupti pointed, all they knew to speak was ‘Paisa Paisa’. Probably that is all that they were taught! Their behaviour indeed showed they were mentally sick and it was high time they received attention. All of this in a small town like Pali. Imagine the plight of several other unlucky kids spread out all across the country. India is a developing Country – What part of it is developing is the question !

At about 6:15pm we picka bus to Lonavala and reach by about 7:00pm. At Lonavala we board the train at about 07:20pm and we’re back to form again – All of us squat on the floor and while away time by cracking highly intellectual PJ’s almost all the way back to Shivaji Nagar 🙂 . That one hour of chitter chatter indeed brought about a feeling that we’ve known each other for quite some time! We reach Pune at around 08:15pm and decide to have dinner and then part.

A classic outing, subjective climate and on top of it all – a wonderful group. Indeed a trek to remember!

Stats:

Group: 13

Endurance: Low

Difficulty: Medium – Subjective to climate

Distance: Approx 115kms.

Route: Sivaji Nagar – Khopola – Pali

Trek time : Upwards: 1.5hrs Downwards: 0.5hrs

Amount: 275INR – BF, Lunch, Dinner, Travel ( Pune <–> Pali )