TagMonsoon treks Pune

Of things that you chose to miss…

I happened to check the AP tourism site yesterday. Believe me. I literally dropped my jaws seeing the first intro page. I guess finally the government has realised the tremendous potential tourism has and decided to tap on it. AP tourism and development corp. is now having the facility of customised tours. Can you beat that? The site lists most of the places in AP and has been developed with the traveller in mind.You can plan your travel and the places that you want to visit and just drop them a request. They’d soon get back to you on that. Such a drastic change is highly commendable! We’re a bit late on this front but thankfully, there’s at least noticeable progress.

It’s a shame to the third degree that we Indians, do not have the interest to explore our own homeland before we proceed to cross the seas during our vacations.There’s so MUCH that there’s to see in India, that believe me you wouldn’t cover one eighth of it in even a two month long vacation.You could have a much more memorable vacation here than shelling out thousands of rupees on an Hawaiian beach or Mauritian visit.Agreed each place has got it’s own splendour and inviting features, But how sane is it to look for paradise thousands of miles away when you have one right in your backyard?

I would primarily attribute the influx of tourists to India to word of mouth than to the publicity campaigns by the government. We’ve a long long way to go to reach the international standards in tourism and that definitely is a mammoth challenge. It’s high time we pull our socks and get things rolling.

I was lucky to be posted in Pune for close to six months last year and am myself shocked to see the stats in front of me at the end of the stay. I’ve never stayed home a single weekend all through my stay there but still, I’ve not even covered 30 percent of the sight-seeing spots close to the city! If a small city like Pune in the western region of India has so much to offer, I leave it to you to judge what whole lot of things we’re missing out in ditching our own boat and jumping over to the ship sailing past us.

Click on the image below to have a peek into a few places that I’ve covered during the last year. [ 90pc of the pictures in the second half of the presentation are taken in places around Pune. ]

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.


 

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! 🙂