Category Archives: Trek

Kamandurg Trek

Kamandurg is a quiet and quite an unknown destination when it comes to trekking. Most of the enthusiasts prefer venturing in the Igatpuri and the Malshej ghats. The Mumbai-ite with the trouble of extra travel in the crowded locals before he can set his foot on the some of the lovely mountains.

Kamandurg, close to Vasai, Mumbai, is however quite an experience for a trekker. The information about Kamandurg too is not easily found on the net 🙂 However Vj did manage to find and make the best use of Google. The trek was set for 9th Jun 2007. Vj getting his trekking meetup’s gang as well.

Travelling Directions

I was waiting for the Borivali local to shower its timely presense.. but as all public transport modes … it was untimely. I could reach Borivali station only by 5.15am, Vj’d called stating.. that we were gonna miss the 5.10 Virar local from Borivali. And we were helpless. The worst thing for me is to be not on time. But … “some things in life u just cant control”.

5.15, Borivali: I got down @ the first platform, I was wondering where was all the old structure, when I saw another train overtaking my train and halting ahead… What was that.. ! well… I was on the new platform (towards North), another train from Churchgate showing its might @ the platform, this time at the old one.. it was when I saw ‘Virar’ on the display, my cell rung, it was Vj checking if I could make the train that was arriving… ha!! perfect ! I was already running to make for it. With a sprint I made into some compartment.

At Dahisar i finally met Vj in the compartment ahead with Vikram, this was a new guy from the meetup group. Seemed like a typical call-center-bachelor-guy happy go lucky life, smokes, bikes, etc. But I was wrong. Was quite a fun to know him later though….

आज बहुत मज़ा आएगा

Vikram kept saying that, I never new why. Inside, Anupama and Rajo were there as well giving their tashreefs a pre-rest. It was almost 6am at Vasai when we got down in the west to check for the routes etc. I was hungry and Vj had to wait for Kalpeshbhai, fine, i’d put that time to good use.

A little enquiry @ the ST bus stand made us wonder we’d miss the bus, the bus that would drop us at Chichoti was about to leave in few min. Damn!! we were gonna miss it. outside we found it would be Rs 200 a rick for that place. We decided we’d wait till all came and figure out if there is a better deal on the eastern side. Few mins. later there were cells buzzing.. Kalpeshbhai, Mayur were ringing..

Kalpesh was running towards us, I never thought he too would be a pathetic PJ cracker as we are, but he turned out to be better or worse than us (I don’t know how to put that :P) We had a vadapav and chaay and moved towards the station when we met Mayur, hmmm… and crossed the lines to get on the otherside of the station.

We can always figure out the extra km travelled in the meter

Naa.. Mayur .. not here in villages … doesn’t work that way. We were trying to negotiate the extra fare if the final destination of Dekhundi village would be from the Kaman village. It turned out to be Rs. 180 for each rick with 4 people. We were 8 that was perfect.

The rick-ride was initally boring however refreshing, and as soon we were on the Vasai-Bhiwandi exit, it started raining amidst the sun. This was better. We had few snaps which we could manage. And sooner we were at the Kaman village, where a villager guided us towards the right direction of the base of the fort, Dekhundi.

We had to walk a red soiled road, across a dry river to reach Devkhundi, at the village we spotted a house buzzing with life, early morning chores, etc. Thats where we decided to recruit our guide. We got a teenager.

अरे चल रे गड्या, घरी बसून काय करशील ?

Rajo very sweetly got his younger kid brother about 10 yrs old to join us.

The trek started close to 7.30-8.00. No sooner we were 15 min. into the trek, it started raining.. we were waiting for it… It was also when Kalpeshbhai had a call from another meetup-groupie who was @ kaman village, and had around 1/2 to 1 hr to join us. He with another friend of his. We decided we’d wait.. We sent back the teenager to pick him, while Mahendra, the kiddo stayed with us. 15 min, and Mayur was fuming … we managed to get some laughs in his arguments. We decided that we’d move on.

And the trek started… twists and turns, rocks gravel and climbs all helping to drain our calf muscles. As the clock moved past an hr since we’d started.. the pace of the group too started to pale, but we moved on. I was very quiet as there were few with whom I talk. There was Vj ofcourse and his PJs and Kalpesh just kept on adding to the heap. Vikram kept chanting “Aaaj mazaaa aayega”.

Later as soon we hit the plateau while crossing mountains.. the group moved ahead, with me and Vj at the end testing our photography skills. We even had few videos from our NGC explorer cum Dandia champ, Vj.

We kept dragging behind, often whistling to keep track of the group ahead led by Mahendra. But we kept snapping, and it was fruitful with some lovely snaps of flowers that we had on the route.

deep pink wild jungle flower jungle white lily
jungle white lily jungle white lily

It was close to 11.30 when we thought we were almost at the top, when there was nothing above us but pure blue sky. The sun now starting to heat up the things. All the way long it was amongst the canopy and the early morning sun which didn’t really trouble us. But this was. Open and in the Sun. Some more climb and that was it for 2 of us, Santhosh and Mayur. they were happy resting on a rock. While rest of us were sure to make it to the final summit.

me and vj group snap me
vijay me and the summit Vijay and the summit
another one for ! rajoba maharaj yeah, what a pose !!!

It was all rock climbing, none of which required any special training, but definately which requires caution and intelligent step placement. Further ahead, it was Anupama’s turn to halt. Now just me, Vj, Kalpesh, Vikram, Rajo and Mahendra treading along. The summit beautiful, all are though. Some more snaps.. and we headed back towards the trailers. That was when we saw 2 guys meeting the rest of the pack, I guess they were the ‘remainders of the division’.

Food was on everybody’s mind when we all of us met. As usual we had ample of bread, butter and Jam. Vj with is Sat. upwaas for a beautiful bride had got sweetlime, tomatoes and cucumber as well. A good, healty, meaty and heavy meal later We all were lazing around.. after the other 2 of the group joined us, we decided to move on.

Stud-dirt plucker

And that was it, it took us around 4 hrs to climb, with a whole lot of waiting, panting, resting, drinking, etc. But the descent was exceptionally quick, back into the foliage and the canopy shielded from the sun, all of us were quick, almost jumping and running down the path. It took us around 1.5hrs to reach back to the outskirts of Dekhundi, thirst and sweat …. !!! It was when we saw a hand-pump !!!! Yummy!!!

There are certain experiences in life that u can’t blog, explain, write, etc. One of them is having a cold shower at a village hand pump after a trek, at the expense of somebody else pumping and flexing the triceps to shower u with cold cold water Jeevan

Aaaah … !!!
पैसा वसूल

This was all that everybody had on their lips, with Vikram reminding us of “Aaaj bahut mazaa aaega”

With a double, triple, quadraple showers, taking turns to pump water on each other, we finally moved on back towards the highway, it was another 1.5hr walk back, but it was good, after that refreshing bath. On the journey back, I wished some others too could’ve joined like Mukti, Sudani, Gauri. ha ha and … Mukti managed to be in just before we finished. “Mukti Dham”, a crematorium. I and Vj looked at eachother, I had my cam memory stick full, but I had to have this for Mukti 😀 . I deleted some extra photos and got Mukti Dham for Mukti 😀

Mukti Dham

At the highway, we all had ourselves full with Sugarcane juice. Again we managed to negotiate rick drivers for Rs. 150 a rick with 5 people in each of ’em. This deal was sweeter 🙂

At the station we were back in the crowd again with sweat pouring all over. We had to skip a few trains before we could manage to get into one of ’em that seemed ’empty’ to one of the commuters.

Back at home …
aaah blindness … … …

Travelling Directions

  • Get a local train to Vasai (Western Railway), Mumbai
  • Either get a ST bus or a rickshaw for Kaman village at the highway
  • Walk towards Devkhundi (base village), where ideally u’d grab a guide to help u to the top


trekking kamandurg
Complete Album

Karnala Trek

The trek was finalized !!! phew !!! After endless discussions to pick a peculiar destination. Karnala that was, a bird sanctuary. Why ? ’cause it was an easy one ! well… that was one of the points that contributed towards its vote, another one was its easy accessibility, only 15 mins from Panvel bus depot. Panvel bus depot itself being only 1.30 hrs from Dadar station by ST bus.

Excited !!! Mukti able to make it this time, even Saurabh. Other participants being the regulars, Vijay, Sudani and Neeraj. Good, always need some TP during treks, and Mukti assures that. She is best at it, with Saurabh to add some spice. The Junagadh king, Mr. Ashok Sudani adding the gujrati flavour to our recipe. Vijay and me relishing every moment of it.

Travelling Directions

Karnala Fort Trek, Photos

26th May 2007, As usual I was unable to have sound sleep in the night, waking up every half hr. or so, just to check what time is it. At last waking just before the 4’o clock’s hammering ring. Even without enough sleep, I was contended. Looking forward. A quick brush, and a call to Vj.

Trring trring… Trring trring… Trring trring… Trring trring… Trring trring… Trring trring… Trring trring…

Hello, Vj?

hmmm… (deep voice)

uthaa ?


uuth… aur ready ho.


chal bye!


साला आएगा क्या ?, next up, a ping to Mukti.

Trring trring… Trr, the second one not allowed, hmm… the Engine is up and running. Good.

5:45 AM, I was waiting for ‘public’, when I saw Sudani searching on the Dadar FOB, even Neeraj had come. Few minutes later, Mukti called on my cell, ye, ‘my cell’, that I’d borrowed from my mom. She managed to get the directions correctly, and no sooner she met us. She bursted into laughter, no wonder we all like her around. This girl had managed to get her cousin escort her till Dadar, on a Kandivali ticket. Oh god !! Mukti u should be into marketing. What powers of persuasion. Vijay too made it sometime later, and we thought we’d have to wait for Saurabh, when he made a sudden appearance. All there. Lets head for the ST Bus. It was close to 6:15.

Just opposite to the Pune’s Asiad bus stand, the ST buses were humming their engines, not exactly humming but kind of choking… We were lucky to spot a Panvel bus waiting only for us, as soon as we hoped in, the bus was rolling. The early morning ride on a highway is always pleasant, the May sun however was starting to show what it was capable of. New bombay, or Navi Mumbai was full of previous incidents for Vj, who’d done his Engg in BVP. We saw where he used to play kho-kho, etc., etc. ‘kho-kho’ to us also has a special meaning, which we never forget to remind. isn’t it Mukti !? Amongst all the khee khee, Sudani had spotted some graffiti in the Bus, ‘Chetana loves hemalai’ or something of that sort, which he was sure of it was not “Chetan”. I’d never seen anybody so emotionally attached to a graffiti

अबे विजय, वोह लिख्खा है ना !! वो चेतन नही है

To that, we all lost it. Haan Sudaani keh rahaa hai to hogaa…

Panvel Bus Depot, around 7:45. Typical ST Bus depot, all the red buses showing how not to follow good traffic ethics in a closed environment. The loos, full of pee overflowing, reminding me and Mukti of NH3 and H2S stink @ National college. People waiting in every single corner of the depot for their buses. This depot was quite a competition to Chicago’s Air Traffic Control.

A lady at Panvel was very helpful in leading us to the right bus to Karnala, we managed to get into the bus after her. This bus was full, I thought this ride would be on foot. But as usual, humans do not prefer what we do, the last seat in the STs. ha ha we love it. don’t we. The ride from Panvel was on a very good road, as soon as we left Panvel, we could smell the jungle air. The air too got cooler, here we come. Within 10-15 min. we were waiting for Karnala, when a guy said, “Karnala?, mere saath utro”. We got down with him, to see ahead, “Karnala Bird Sanctuary”. The guy got into a cabin, and said, “वर्ती पर्यंत जाणार ?”, “पाणी आहे ना?, वर्ती काही नाही.” Ok buddy, Rs. 20 each for the trip, thik hai. He even gave us a neat map of the Sanctuary.

We headed out only see a group of monkeys on the road, Mukti was hesitant, but had no option other than following us, The monkeys didn’t budge, “आगए आदमी के अौलाद”. Vijay as usual was moving fast and … trying to find a wrong turn 😀 . We took a deliberate right turn that was supposed to join back to the main road, which was properly paved. The right turn however never joined, we had to trace back. Further ahead, we saw cages and some huts, the ‘Office of the Sanctuary’ as stated in the map. There was a peacock trying to showoff his beauty, by spreading its feathers all round and dancing. Some parakeets as well, with their distinct vocals, further ahead, white Rabbits. They were so very white, they even had 3 pups,calfs, god knows what are rabbit’s kids called. But they were damn cute, just about 3 inch long and full of cotton wool. mmmm…. could be tasty to have a bite at, ha haaa.

A right turn ahead was a “difficult route” to the Karnala fort, while a left one was for “elders”. No prizes for guessing our route, we were on a trek, not a picnic. the route first descended, and then climbed back, nicely twisting and turning in the woods. aaah .. that smell of leaves fallen on the floor, the sound of crickets, cicadas, and the sound of birds…. simple jungle life…

As we moved on… Vj, not waiting.. always moving ahead…

Yeh to garden mein walk hain

Soon the way started to climb harder, more rocky features to cross and more gravel to be afraid of.. to that Mukti and Saurabh commented ‘haan, what a walk in a garden !!!’ with Vj and Saurabh both sweating heavily. With lot of snaps some video captures, we moved ahead. We got a chance to see a gujrati मक्कडमानव hanging on the trees. With all that, heat, water intake, we were moving ahead. Except for Vijay this was our trek after a long time. just the previous Sunday Vijay had again managed to have a disastrous Harishchandragad. It was my first after my knee zol. But the trek wasn’t strenuous.

We reached the top, where we couldn’t see rocks, trees above us but only sky. This top however was a road on the top of a mountain that lead us to the final fort. We saw a group coming from the other side (the elderly route !). An aunty was creating a havoc in the jungle peace… “WHY ARE YOU’LL NOT COMING…. I’M GOING AHEAD” and so on… I was trying not to listen her… but couldn’t help it. She was a bit too loud in the jungle. Further ahead there were steep steps towards the fort that we could see. The steps were actually cut rocks. The lady yet again…. “HELLO…. U’LL ARE NOT COMING… ? SHOULD I GO AHEAD ?” after a few steps, few difficult ones, “OYE WHY ARE YOU’LL NOT COMING WITH ME ?” I’d figured out the reason, why ! I was with Mukti, but I never had a look in Mukti’s eyes during this scene, I knew a single look would have made her laugh right in the aunt’s face. Thank god.. I didn’t. Further ahead, Sudani, Neeraj were managing to cross difficult rock patterns, when the aunty was unable to judge her steps… to that …

keep your pair here.

? pair ?
Ashok or Neeraj whoever that was… realizing the mistake..

leg keep here

another point where I avoided an eye contact with Mukti.

Vijay and Saurabh were ahead, almost into the fort now. Waiting for 4 of us trailing behind. As we moved into the fort, we saw the final piece of cliff that the rock climbers do rappelling etc. Some more snaps over here. By now Mukti wasn’t really feeling all good, too much of water perhaps. Feeling uneasy, While rest of us were finding a shade to have something to eat. We found a cave like area where there were cool water cisterns. Some were bad, but there was one which was exceptionally clean, I tried a sip of it despite opposite views, after me Saurabh too had it.. “abe, meetha paani hai” we then later enjoyed the meetha water even more.

Mukti was so uneasy, she had to puke.. she found a bad stinking water pool, where in she helped it clean with her distilled water like उल्टी, and in a weired fashion as well !! oh !! Tension free after that, she was so enthusiastic that she came into the cave with a big bang, ya big bang on the rock with her head. Aaaah !!! sat Mukti… holding her head… trying to weep perhaps… but then as we all know her.. She started to laugh..???? ha haa. Vj put some cold water on her head…

After few questions of how u’re feeling and so on.. we came to the important one… “what was the laugh about”

ये क्या हो रहा है मेरे साथ? पेहले उल्टी, अौर अब ये

ha haa, hmm… good carry on. After an enjoyable relaxing time in the cave, we headed for another shelter of the rock granting us some shade, where we had our food, Bread, etc, and so on.. Few snaps as well.

There on, Vj wanted to relax, so we headed back around the cliff towards the entrance of the fort, the door. Where we all put our bags down, and spread our feet. Vj and Saurabh trying to spread every single part of the body, but the whole entrance wasn’t wide enough to sleep. Vj laid down with his feet resting high on the wall. So did Saurabh, after which “Shit.. yeh paaon bahut oonche nahi rakh sakhtaa huun, aah…” uska cribbing chaltaa rahaa… We shot some more TP videos, abusing each other etc. which were deleted.

I and Mukti were still chatting while Vj was trying to sleep, Saurabh was trying to adjust his body into the area, Neeraj and Sudani were already dozing… We moved ahead from the place to venture out further, only to find nothing. Found another shade and we sat. Few min. Saurabh too joined in. aaah now this place, he was able to spread his whole body.. “aah .. but these stones, only if I could have had a pillow… ” .. and so on…

It was close to 3.00 when we finally decided to move down again, picking up our bags, etc. We head back into the jungle. within minutes I found myself hungry, yet again.. We sat down for food, munching bread, puffing ourselves with Glucon-D, mmm.. it tastes so yummy when u’re thirsty. With more photos during our descend, we reached the “Office building” where we releaxed in the shade of the trees on the grass carpet. Quenched our thirst, before we finally headed for the highway. It was then when we observed a pillar with a distinct message on it.

मुली पटविण्यास मनाई आहे

a little thought by Saurabh.. and it was actually

चुली पेटविण्यास मनाई आहे

waaah !!!

On the road, we waited for the ST bus, before we hired a 6 seater. where as a mandate, you need to sit in a awkward, tight position before u could have a sawaari of a 6 seater. Some more snaps helped us thru. At Panvel Station, Vj spotted a Watermelon vendor, and we all were there, puttin our small mouths into the big melon pieces, enjoying it. The bus ride from Panvel to Dadar was a soothing one, yet again on the backseat. Saurabh, Ashok, Neeraj all dozing off, while Vj, Mukti and I continued to enjoy.

At Dadar, it seemed more than a day, when we’d met earlier in the morning, ‘alas, the good day had come to an end, and we all were again like ants, cockroaches running and waiting for the local trains in the heavy rush.

Travelling Directions

  • Get a ST bus to Panvel ST Bus depot from Dadar Stn., Mumbai (opp. to Pune’s Asiad bus stop)
  • From Panvel get a bus towards Pen/Karnala

Dhak Bahiri Trek – धाक भहिरी

Standing at the top of hill, looking down the crevice between the two mountains, there was nothing I could see but the vast valley ahead hugged by other mountains, one of them the Rajmachi. Down there I could see no terrain. The valley dropping more than 2000 feet or so. And that is where we’d to climb down ! Sounds like a nightmare, but unfortunately was not. That precisely coincided with the talks, blogs, info that I and Vj had been reading all long the week.

The excitement kept mounting as the Thursday night turned into the Friday morn. I’d to ensure that everything is ready for the trek, for which we’d start in the night towards Karjat. As the day progressed in the office, there were few talks with Vj and other colleagues about the talk, but much of the passed with a normally hectic work schedule (that was a bit exaggerated!). And it was almost 7.00pm, Vj called Ankush to confirm where we shall be joining our journey. There was one more friend of Vj, Vikrant कोर्डे (who is never dry on jokes). They both were supposed to meet us at Thane stn.

Traveling Directions

I was standing at Dadar FOB, waiting for Vj and watching the Mumbai’s ant army marching along. Even after 11pm the Mumbaikars tirelessly changing trains, commuting… I wondered is that one of the reasons for which Mumbai is quoted as the city that never sleeps.

Vj came at around 11.30pm, he had called Ankush and asked him to board an Ambernath fast local which was to leave Dadar @11.37pm. Our central railway time-table, Chetan Bhandary was helpful for this information. He is the guy who basically manages our time schedule while commuting the Central Railways, but still manages to never come along with us. We waited for the train at the platform, with the other non-sleeping Mumbaites. The train came with its payload, exceeding as always, but still it was a lot better, there was enough room for us to stand comfortably near the door. In Mumbai, you are considered to be enjoying a 5-star room luxury, if you are close to the door on local trains, I bet we were atleast in 2-star luxury room. Vj gave me a printout of one of the blogs on Dhak Bahiri, I kept my eyes on it and my ears on Vj’s chatter.

The train travel was easy enough, thanks it was quite late for most of the peak traffic towards the Central side. Yet we just comfortable place to stand. Vj called up Ankush and asked him board the 8th bogie of Ambernath Fast local instead of waiting for us at Thane stn. The message was sent to Vikrant as well. The plan was to get down at Ambernath and then wait for the last Karjat local. We closed near Bhandup, when Vikrant called asking the whereabouts of Ankush at Thane stn, he was with a friend on a bike to Thane stn. Vj due fully gave all the information. With Vj around you are never short of information, whether useful or not, who knows, but information. Thane came quick and fast, Vj had another call to Ankush confirming on Vikrant’s position. But Vikrant had managed to miss everyone. He even had his phone switched off, for whatever reasons.

At Thane station, Vj got down tried to search Ankush and Vikrant, but as trained jumped to life, Vj hopped back in, with none of them. He even tried to “pcheeeww….” them to find them. If you are not a mumbaite, u wouldn’t know this unique sound that is used to initiate a communication between far distance communicators, its a weird sound made by blowing in air using a very small aperture at the mouth. Vj came back to me and said, “Ankush must have got in, but I’m not sure of Vikrant”. A few minutes later, Vj confirmed Ankush was in the 3’rd compartment. For the rest of the journey to Ambernath, Vj kept calling Vikrant, he even called his friend who had dropped Vikrant at the Stn. But all information that he could get is, Vikrant was at Thane station, ’cause on of the incoming nos. was public booth on Thane’s railway stn. But thats all we had about Vikrant. hmm… so it could be just 3 of us for Dhak bahiri.

At Kalyan stn, while I was reading, Ankush asked, “Just 3 of us ?”. I was stunned to see him, I’d expected to meet him at Ambernath. But he’d managed to come back in our compartment. He started nagging Vj on his “8th bogie” information. Local train compartments were not called “bogies” and you generally give the compartment no. which is the closest to either end, Vj’s info didn’t go with these rules. Bogies are referred normally to the Through trains only, and guess what, Vj had noted the Bogie no. board on Dadar stn which is meant only for through trains. This was enough for us to chat till we reached Ambernath at around 00.30am, Saturday, 20 Jan 2007.

Ambernath stn, was lonely after most of the commuters had left, we were asked by a policewalla for our desitnation. We stayed on the same platform where we had got off. I had a leak, while Vj still kept trying to contact Vikrant, but… the phone was off. The train to Karjat was scheduled @1.08. Unusual time for unusual people and trips. Suddenly close to 1.00 Vj had a ring, it was Vikrant!!! He was calling from one of the commuter’s cell from Ambernath. He had made it. phew !! atleast 4 of us. Vj ran ahead to get him.

Vikrant is a different human, he has an uncanny funny bone. He always is full with some comments, jokes or something that makes others stomach pain. Vikrant had boarded the Ambernath train luckily. He said that he’d seen a Mandgaon express near 11.30 and since Vj had said that it was the 8th bogie, he thought we’d be travelling till Ambernath by that train. But luckily enough his engg. logical thinking made him stick to the Ambernath local. We were again on Vj for his 8th bogie information. We sat at the Ambernath platform waiting for the Karjat local. Vj warned us that Chetan had informed him about groups robbing lonely commuters after Badlapur, since most of the stations were distanced more than 5 mins. apart, it was easy for the thugs. We had a laugh on that, Ankush had got his new DigiCam ~Rs.25K, we were like

कॅमेरा देना होगा तो दे देंगे, लेकिन उंको मारे बगेर नही। बहुत दिनसे मारा मारी नही की

The Karjat train came a little late, we boarded it still to find around 10-20 people in it. It was close to 1.20am, and even then…, life is bad for these poor fellows. We sat, and started our discussion on Gulabjamuns, Pista-rolls, Sevaiyaa and Kheer. Tempting enough for all those who read, except for us! We even met the generous commuter who had offered Vikrant his mobile to call Vj @1am on Ambernath stn. Without him, Vikrant wouldn’t have been with us for the trek. The journey to Karjat was safe enough, except at a place, where the compartment was full with some dust particles, I thought it was Cement powder, it made us choke… I asked Vikrant to open the doors, to clean up the air around.

Karjat stn, at night was busy enough. Being an important stn, where trains are added some muscle by shunting more engines to help the train navigate the Khopoli ghat section, there was plenty of activity around. It was close to 2.30am and all of us were damn sleepy, we had some tea, biscuits at a stall and asked him directons for Sandshi village, the base for Dhak bahiri. The village could be reached by ST bus which left not before 7.00am or Tuktuks which would charge around Rs.200. We had our stomachs working and went back to the bench, where Vikrant couldn’t resist the flat granite, he laid back on it with his hands tucked into the sweater and wherever he could get warmth 😉 We too decided to lay back till it was atleast 4.00.

Around 3.30, Ankush woke up and came where I and Vj were trying to sleep, but couldn’t. The granite was a cold tombstone for us. I had not even got any warm clothing, and was in my shorts and T-shirt. We went back to Vikrant and tried to wake him, he had his head covered with the monkey-cap. We roamed around till 4.00 when we finally moved outside the station towards the eastern side to see if there were any tuktuks, but none were to be seen, we moved ahead towards what we thought of a ST stop, when we spotted a tuktuk moving towards us, we asked about Sandshi and he said it would take 250, the least he could go was 200. Rs200 for 20kms was out of question we moved towards the ST depot, which was more of a ST parking garage than a depot, Vikrant, Ankush even sneaked into the cabins, where we could see a dim light, but returned sad to see all of them sleeping. I and Ankush joked

उठाअो उंको, ये कोई वक्त हे सोने का

With nothing much to do, we returned back to the station, where Ankush wanted to achive something close to Nirvana. I need not tell what ! He came back with his hands up, celebrating a Goal or something, He said, “Now I’m hungry… lets have food”

We then moved towards the western side of Karjat in a small hotel to have शीरा and चाय. With that even Vj wanted to have some freedom, so… back to Kalyan stn.

After that we went back to the eastern side in search of a tuktuk, we were lucky enough to spot a man with his vehicle. We tried to take him down from the std. rate of Rs.200 down to Rs. 150. But both the parties agreed on 175. The tuktuk ride @ 5 – 5.30 in the morning was hell, open on all sides, the cold air crept through every possible region in our body. The ride took us along a road, around which we saw some mountains and a faint orange light creeping through it, the dawn was about to break, in another 30 minutes, close to 6 – 6.30 were there at Sandshi, the road ended abruptly. We were greeted with dogs ! nothing new for their cousins 🙂 But this time around they were wagging their tails and licking… We were lucky this time. After a few words with the Villager, he asked us to get a guide who’d show the route in the forest. He even wished us good morning by a tale of a guy who had died trying to come down the forest. We didn’t want that, so we agreed on one, he called Balu, who seemed to be in his late 30s or so. He was brushing, he asked how much would we give him, Ankush answered 100, to which he immediately agreed. Damn… We could have offered a little less. He came back dressed for the trek, with a scythe hanging to his back. We were ready to leave around 7.15am.

The trail started from the back side of the village, from there we could see 3 mountains, to the left was Dhak Bahiri and the right most was Rajmachi. we moved ahead from the fields, in the cold air. We took few leaks here and there as we kept moving towards the base of mountain. As we moved ahead we saw that Dhak Bahiri (DB) was a pretty vertical cliff from what we could see. Most of the mountain was flat rock face. As we moved ahead Balu narrated the story of the guy who fell from the cliff in the evening, he had lost his path while coming down and was searching for water, when he lost his balance and fell. The villagers searched for 5 days before they found him. The story was not exactly what we’d expected of him, but … that was fair warning on his end. OK. We were lucky to get a guide every time we thought the split path moved in a particular direction for DB, Balu took the other side. We were also followed by the Dog and its wife I guess. As we moved ahead, Balu pointed us a thick black line almost at the top of the mountain, it was about 30-40 feet below the summit. That was DB caves, and where the Bahiri devi idol is placed. And that is where we had to go… ! What !!! It seemed impossible, the Thick black line was amidst a big flat rock face of the mountain, nothing that we could see from here could lead to that feature. We moved on.

Moving ahead, we kept shifting to the right side, I asked Balu if we were going around the mountain, to which he replied an implicit “Yes”. Half-an-hour more of climbing rocks, jungle trail, etc and we came to a flat land. Most of us had water over there. Balu pointed us back to the hick black line, the DB caves. This time he showed us another thing, an orange dot, which he said is the flag just at the edge of the cave. hmm… As we were about to leave Vj spotted a shed snake skin, and close to it I found another. We were quick enough to hang it in our hands. The skin was fresh, there was some moisture in it. That means we have snakes around !!! I took both the skins and put it in the newspaper and into my bag. A leak and we moved ahead.

Now the climb had started to steepen. And unlike the normal treks that we had done, in which a steep climb stretch was followed by a simple walk, this trek had no such hospitality in its store for the Mumbai guests. It just continued. My last night’s stomach cleaning operation was not enough to subside my bowels, while we were climbing I had to … I asked Vj and all to move ahead and stop. I searched for a nice clean flat rock. I know its embarrassing to read, but it is important if you are a first-timer in a jungle. I saw the troop above me, Ankush shouted, “फोटो काढू का”, and I yelled a yes back. Finally found a nice flat rock, which was near cliff about 10-40m above the terrain. Few minutes, Vartak foundation was laid and I was back with the group. I too had achieved Nirvana. Yes. My day was now going to go fine, no tension.

The trail now had changed into a deep-jungle trail, the canopy of trees was enough to make the area dark. Balu who had been going freely, was now calculative enough, trying to cross-check the trail if it was the right one. I’m sure without his help, we would have missed the right trail. Jungles, big boulders, shrubs, thorny plants, sticking seeds, Cattle shit, all accompanied us through. The climb kept getting steeper. Now all of us had started to get a little tired. Vikrant who had come on a trek after a long time stopped for a break frequently. The break broke our momentum. We too started to feel the heat as sun now leaped into the sky and turned a cool morning into a damp, sweaty, hot jungle.

We kept going ahead, It was almost 2hrs now and I asked Balu how much farther do we have to go. He said “Yes more, a little more”. I think none of the villagers anywhere in India can estimate time. Nowhere have we found one individual predicted the right time or even the right distance. We had now lost the sight of DB caves, as we had moved to another mountain. We know this because, we had once climbed down and back again for a brief period. This is the most simple signs of switching the mountains. We had done this twice now. The 9.30 sun was now really hot, the dogs still continuing with us always took time relax in shade. The last time I had climbed for this long was during Mauli, and it ended … but not this one. We drifted along. Balu still having enough energy to hop and move ahead.

Another hr. or so had passed, it was almost 3hrs of steep climb, which had left us tiered. Our lower calf muscles were now aching. But not yet we moved. We chewed Balu’s head, with our single question, “How long before we reach the top?”, “A little bit more” ! but finally our efforts were awarded by a clean sky above, the top. Phew.. it had almost taken us 3 hrs. to reach.

I moved ahead where I saw a two mountains coinciding, making a crevice. I ventured a little further… wo !!! All I could see was a splendid valley through it. It was like standing just behind a “V”, and through the V all you see is sky and the valley. I had read about it, this was the “Nali”, or the small path between the two mountains. I’d read that we had to climb down from here. But to where ? I couldn’t see any terra-firma below.. As Vikrant finally came trailing along, we had a few snaps. Balu said we’ve got to go from there. We looked at each other, “फटी”. But as we moved ahead down the crevice, which could accommodate no more than a single person, the descent was steep, we literally had to have our hands along the rocks, and let our bodies slide to the ground below, we moved a little further… We came across a huge boulder, which blocked the view, I moved aside only to see nothing but valley. I stopped there, Balu came from back and promptly climbed from the side and went below, I was amazed to see him do that, I gathered some grit and moved ahead to see him climb down a 6-foot wall which led him to a ground which was about 5sq.m. Ahead was the valley. Tackling a 6 foot wall was normal for me, except the height at which it was, I managed to get down and stand on the solid ground. When I came down, Balu said the big boulder had come down in rains which blocked the route, and made this bit little difficult. As he waited and directed Ankush to come down , I gathered my courage and moved a little further, to see a small 1foot wide road to left and another generic rock feature to right, below .. the valley. I thought it was this 1 foot road that we had to take, As everybody came down. I saw a similar feeling in them. Vj moved ahead and pointed towards the road to the right, I saw none, he said we had to move further below to that road on the right, Balu also spotted another lad coming from that road, he’d been coming from the caves. The dogs that had been following us were now crying… they were too fearful of climbing down that feature where all they could see ahead was the deep valley, but they knew that Balu and other guys had gone down, so it was still safe to get down, but couldn’t muster courage. I and Vj moved to the right where little bit ahead we could see the road which was literally carved into the rock. All of us had some water over there. Balu managed to get the dog down, but the bitch was still at the top, screaming, crying… Ankush said “That is common in girls, God has given them the same feature set”. Ankush took out his camera and started to shoot the video. The bitch finally made it down, still crying.

That was some experience! but it was just the beginning.

As we treaded along the narrow road, putting the balance on the rocks to the right, cause at this height none of us were sure if our balance was good enough to make us walk a 2 foot road, to its left was the valley. We moved ahead till we were not sure where to go. Vj now pointed me to the Dark thick line that we saw at the bottom. That was the same feature, it was the Dhak bahiri cave that we saw, we also saw the orange flag just at the edge of the cave. OK, we’ve reached here, but how to go to that cave…

Balu came from the back and he moved ahead, along a narrow road just about 1 foot wide winding down.. I wasn’t sure if we should follow. But he looked back and gestured us to follow him. Unsure of our fate now.. we followed him. I could sense the tension, fear in everyone. To the left I saw the valley, but immediately below the cliff I saw the terrain, still it was around 100 ft. below. But that was more comforting than the full valley. I think this view made us follow Balu. We suddenly saw Balu climb the flat rock. A careful look and I could see some rock features carved which helped him to climb above, we followed slowly.. We all were very excited, Vj, me and Ankush had waited for this for 3 months or so.. the Dhak Bahiri rock climb. It was here, we were doing it. I too didn’t realize that I was there. I always thought it was too difficult for us to do. No. But we were there. we moved along to the right, the caves now much clearer. Then a little ahead Balu waited. We wondered why. Then Balu suddenly started climbing straight, 90 degrees up. I saw him climbing the similar rock features that resembled a rung, carved into the rock. we followed him. He moved further to the left and waited near a small flat piece of land. We waited till everybody was there.

Now I could see the rung to the right, and then…nowhere. Balu climbed that rung and like an expert climber, shifted his weight weight and moved his left foot on a natural edge where he steadied himself and climbed further towards the left. A little bit more and he waited again on a flat piece of land. “Wo ho…” more of natural rock climb… we continued behind him.

We stood there, now the sun was scorching.. it was close to 11 and was really hot. luckily it wasn’t sweaty as in Mumbai. Balu now pointed us to the right towards the cave. We could see just below the cave were 3 big ropes dangling, attached to the ropes were bamboos. And they were not cut totally, they had their offshoots cut. With that it resembled a stem with its thorns pointing out. For us it was much more, it was something to climb on, those bamboo offshoots. Balu warned us that this final stretch was a little tricky and we should be careful and concentrating. He moved to the right and climbed through the rock feature towards a flat wall, where he carefully put his weight to the walls and smoothly but slowly move towards the dangling ropes. I advised ankush to follow him. The flat rock was was tricky to navigate as all we got to place our foot was around 2 inches rock cut.

While I was still waiting down, I saw Balu grab the ropes, and climb the perfectly 90 degree cliff with help of the bamboo.. He was skillful at what he was doing. As I saw his skills, he was through, in the caves. He peeked down and was advising Ankush on the rope climb. He kept shouting, “Do not let go the ropes, whatsoever!!!” Akush too some how managed to climb. But then midway between the ropes, Ankush just stayed there. He couldn’t find any feet to place and push ahead. Somehow sticking his body to the ropes, the bamboos, he manged to climb into the caves. Vikrant was next to follow. He somehow managed his muscle power and moved into the cave. Vj was next, he grabbed the rope, when I moved along the flat rock feature till the base of the ropes. The first half of ropes was navigated easily by Vj till he reached the halfway mark, where he couldn’t find anything to put his feet on. He tried … when he suddenly found himself swirling to the right with the ropes, मेरी तो फटी. I was never so scared my whole life as when I saw Vj dangling. I asked Vj to calm himself, wait. He did that, and very successfully manged to get into the cave. Now it was my turn. I did the first half of rope easily. Now was the difficult part, I too couldn’t find anywhere to put my feet on. I just had two ropes, and bamboo to hold. This was where I tried to pull a little stunt, something that I’m used to. Climbing a 6 foot flat wall with absolutely nothing to place your foot on. I managed to move the ropes and the bamboo 1 foot wide and using full power of my hands, I pulled myself up, just trying to scrape the bamboo with my shoes, I knew I couldn’t put any weight on my shoes, my legs. Just a little rest of shoes on the bamboos. I pulled myself further up till I got something to land my feet on, then there was a rounded Orange rock to which the rope was tied along. I grabbed hold of it and pulled myself into the cave right in front of the Bahiri goddess, painted bright orange with the lead colouring.

पैसा वसूल

, I shouted to Ankush, to which he gave a broad smiled and yelled back…

वसूल !

It was 11.15, it took us 1hr from the “nali” till up here in the cave. We were all tiered and hungry. We moved to the right of the cave where we saw chicken bones all over, people come here and cook food, chicken and enjoy. I went back to main cave, where I saw 2 water cisterns filled with water, with a yellowish green coating. I looked beneath the water, were big utensils, lying at the base around 3-4 feet below. We all agreed, that we should have food, and we sat near the cistern, opening our bread loaves, Cakes, Biscuits, etc. We joked all the way. We joked how much Vj had put up (in his big belly). To which Ankush laughed remembering Mukti’s statement in Gujrati, She’d quoted her mother, In English it translated .. “Eat and u die, Don’t eat and u die, better eat and die”. I know I’ll get the exact local version of it in the comment, please do the needful Mukti.

After having our food, we laid back. Joking… Vikrant joked, “I’m not coming down, I’ll stay here for rest of my life, I’ll marry here as well.” Ankush said “I’ll ask the government to get you down”. To which he said “OK, only if they get a chopper over here.”. It was close to 12, I asked everybody to to get up. Vikrant said, “let me sleep before I die, or else my soul will trouble the villagers”. We had enough jokes, rest, till 12.15 when I got up and asked everyone to be on their feet. None of us wanted hot rocks beneath our palms. They were already heating for 3 hrs in the sun. We all got up and moved towards the rope and stood still. We could see nothing below. How do we climb down ? !!!

Balu asked us to get down, to which we replied “But how ?!!”, I asked. To which Balu replied by grabbing the ropes, and moved down. He placed his right foot on some edge which I couldn’t see. But I believed him all this way through, and had to continue to do that. I followed him slowly, Then came the half way rope hurdle. But this time it was easier. All I did was release the grip of rope on one had, while I gripped other even more firmly, and then the other hand… and so on. And I was back at the base of rope. I yelled back to guys at the top to follow my instructions, Ankush, Vikrant started…

Balu by now had crossed the flat rock feature which was the worst, at first I was so scared to let loose the rope grip and move down towards the left on a descending rock feature. but somehow I let go the rope and moved ahead. I moved a little further till I reached the flat rock, where I was stuck. My feet were stationary , I couldn’t see how I could place my next foot on the rock, which was just about 2 inches. But somehow I manged to do that, I placed my body weight to the right on the rock, I was careful not to put all the weight on the right, that could have made me loose my foot grip and sliding down. Now that I’d placed one foot, it was time for another, and that was when I was shocked with fear, I had to somehow make enough room between my foot and the rock face to allow my next foot to go ahead.. Some how I managed to do it, and moved ahead after that it was little simpler descend to the flat rock where Balu was standing instructing others down the rope.

I too stood there and waited for others to get down, Everytime the lads came to that flat rock feature, I advised them to stay calm, while I myself got extremely tensed, I could feel the sweat in my palms. Luckily enough everyone did well and reached. Balu now swiftly descended further, with Ankush following him. I was now waiting … But the next descend even though tricky and difficult was nothing compared to the descend of the flat rock wall, that we’d just been through. Another 15 more minutes of rock climb took us to the flat road that lead back to “Nali”. But this was not the route were using to go back, we were going to take a straight route down towards the village instead of the winding, coiling road along the mountains. The climb down was a straight one along the ladders carved into the stone, till we were into a thick dense shrubs and trees. The dogs were still following us, they never came to the caves but waited there till we came down.

The route down was amongst thick bushes, full of thorns, fallen trees, rocky gravel. But it was infinite times safer than what we had been through. I and Vj were thankful we’d not managed to get any other colleague with us. We just didn’t want that little extra responsibility during that descend and climb. The route took us dowm, it was a steep route, I and Vj were sure that it was that of a rivulet flowing down in the rains. We continued down..

It was now more than 2 hrs and we were still descending, we all were now extremely tired, Vikrant was exhausted. We were not doing anything better. But we worked ourselves down.. I joked with Ankush “किस चूतियेने कहा था डाक बहिरी आने के लिये”. We all laughed.. trying to rest ourselves. Balu said that we could get the ST @ 3.00 from the village, but we needed to hurry a little bit, we all agreed to him but we just couldn’t hurry… We all just dragged our bodies down the rocks, boulders, everytime thinking that we were almost there, but only to move ahead and see the valley down… “Nopes, more to go”…

It was now 3.00 and we were still going, we surely had missed the ST, the next one was @4.00. Vikrant said “भाड में जाए वो ST, बैठने दे मुझे” All tried to laugh, Vikrant still using his funnier side to a good effect. We continued, we now saw a flat land, and then a little valley where we had Sandshi village waiting for us. We knew we had yet another mountain to descend before we have our final descent of the last mountain, we managed to move on. I and Ankush discussed that it was the most tiring of all the treks and definitely the most difficult one. It was close to 3.30 when we finally reached the base, but still we had some distance to go before we reached the village. We carried ourselves forward.

We came and sat on the ground at Balu’s house, Vj had asked if he could get any Lassi, or Curd-milk. Balu had come back from the local market with Curd, and had given us curd, water, sugar. We kept on drinking, Vj and I moved towards the Hand pump where we tried to wash our tiredness, which we were somewhat successful. After coming back to the house , we just laid back waiting for the 4.00 ‘o clock bus which never did. Balu said the bus was late and it will probably come at 5.00. To this Vj just went into a deep sleep, I too slept a bit, but was up again. I, ankush and Vikrant were hungry, We manged to find some remaining biscuits and snacks to chew till we waited for the bus.

It was close to 5.00 when Ankush heard the bus coming, I never believed. He had done that many times, his tired body could only hear a roaring bus coming towards Shandshi, but it had this time. We got in, Vj purchased the tickets and … darkness … the bus was in Karjat where Balu got off, he too had come with us till Karjat. Finally we got off at the station, where we found ourselves eating the famous Karjat “Vada Pav”. We had some cold drinks at the stall and waited for the train.

The train came at around 6.40, we got into it. There was enough rush, it seemed like 1/4th of Dadar’s rush hr. We manged to get ourselves the helpful 4th seat. The trains electricity was off, so no fans… who cares… darkness…

Somewhere in the sleep I found the train moving along Kalyan, Dombivli. Then it was passing through the Thane tunnel, where Ankush stood with Vikrant. They got off at Thane, and I knew there were another 3-4 stations before I and Vj got Borivali train @ dadar. Time moved and so did the train. We got off at Dadar, where I was lucky enough to find a Andheri train in the peak hr @ 8.30, Vj waited for a Borivali fast train.

If you were reading all the way long, I know it was tiring for u to read all this, believe me I can understand that, ’cause I’ve actually experienced it.

I reached Home, … Food … then the Darkness till the daylight.

Traveling Directions

  1. Reach Karjat Station (Central Railway) by Train early morning @ 5 or 6
  2. Get a tuktuk (10 seater rickshaw) or ST bus to Sandshi, the base village. Get there by the break of dawn.
  3. Hire a guide to lead you

Sudhagad trek

Mukti and meIt all started with our incessant talks of treks. Me and Vijay always trying to find a Saturday, Sunday home amongst the lovely Sahyadris. And fortunately those who were interested in our talks and plans were the HR. From HR, Gauri who is an experienced climber was assited with Mukti, the ever excited, chirppy girl. All leading only to one result, a big unofficial company trek.

The first aim after 4 of us were in the plan were to gather more guys for the trek, and astonishingly most of the Engg. guys agreed with a few exceptions. Almost 12 guys from the company and another friend of ours Ankush raised the roster count to 13. Now that the enthusiasts were ready, what about the venue, the location, … ? Since most of us were first-timers, it was decided by HR that the trek must be for a beginner. There was a lot of chat, contradictions, etc after visiting , a very helpful site for as#$% like us. finally the plan was pointing towards Sudhagad, Pali. Gauri had been there once, and said it was a straight-forward trek, good for beginners. !!! HR’s word is final.

While we were trying to figure out the transportation, Gauri had an idea,

Why not hire a tempo-traveller or bus like that.

The idea didn’t go well with Vijay, which made us feel we were planning a picnic, instead of a trek. Official trek transportation is State Transport(S.T.) and Local Trains, and Bus #11. But then finally most of us managed to get Vijay on the Tempo-traveller plan. Gauri, resourcefully arranged for the vehicle and the plan was set, Sat 6 January, 2007, 0500 hrs, Andheri station, the bus shall start for Pali.


Friday night sleep wasn’t that great, I had a different thread inheriting a Clock class, which kept running all the night. I woke up @ 2.00 am in the night, just to check what time it was, I had to get up @ 3.30. Finally when I woke up again it was close to 3.30 and the alarm was off, I was brushing when it finally did go up. Thanks to evolution for making the Human Brain’s kernel use multiple threads. At 4.00 I left for Khar Station, got a ticket for Andheri, and boarded the 4.18 train. When I got down at Andheri I heard my stomach crying for food, I had to feed it something, so I got some biscuits. While walking down the SV road, I was not amazed to see many call center guys with their 150cc bikes having tea with all early morning vendors at the tapri. Smell of tea was another thing that I couldn’t resisit, But I did for a small period. I met Sudani, Amol and Neeraj at the BEST stop.

Few minutes later I saw almost whole of the troop come, Vijay leading the way with Santhosh, Awdesh, Mukti, Danny, and others following. After all hi, hellos, good mornings, etc, I couldn’t resist my Tea and took Danny, Ashok and others at the tapri where we had a nice cuppa flavoured with गवती चहा. We returned back at the stop with Danny unable to have a sip, thanks to the stupid tapriwala who cared for everything else except the customers. It was almost 4.45, and Arvind and Gauri had not yet showed up. I was almost certain that Arvind was gonna give us a टांग. Mukti called Gauri only to find her just awaking, thankfully Gauri did make it in another 10 minutes. And… she was another candidate of early morning dope of a hot tea. While having another sip, we spotted the Tempo-traveller making a Pin bend at the corner, Gauri pointed the driver-cleaner towards the Bus stop, at first he was confused, but I think on second thought he must have realized that @ 5.00 am guys at a tapri are not drunk, and probably form the payload.

At the stop everybody was boarding the bus, when I asked Vijay (VJ) to call Ankush to be there at the Vashi bus stop in another 1/2 hr. Awdesh’s call to Arvind had confirmed my doubt, that he was still asleep. And the bus moved in the early morning’s cool mist, creating a turbulence behind on the highway.

Almost @ 5.45 were at the ST stop in Vashi, Vj called Ankush who was on the way. We waited at the stop and had a few snaps, while some of us who wanted to be too close to the nature… had nature calling 😉

rutu-his-leg-vijay-danny mukti-gauri2

Ankush came on a friends bike, he is a true biker, has a bike always under his ass. … and we moved the next stop, Pali. The highway was a nice comfortable one, even on the Panvel exit. Only place where the road took a knocking was at the Pali exit. A typical unmaintained highway. Vj, Mukti tried to get the early sun rays troubling the aperture’s sleep.


We cruised along till we finally reached a village, no other than Pali. Where Gauri had to eat a वडा पाव. Not many could curtail their urges of having a fresh, hot one. I denied, Vijay had a Saturday fast, god knows for what reasons. Mukti had some answer, which I shall keep it for her to respond. Everybody was having the hot vada, when my Mumbaikar soul couldn’t control the view of everybody having the staple Mumbai food. At last, I too had it.

Sarasgad, much closer to Pali

While we were having our stomachs working… Vijay’s extrovert nature had him talking with the गााव वाले. He found out the nearest base for Sudhagad was some village Dhodse or something, I don’t remember. And that specific trail was a bit exciting as well. So the next stop was the village, where we had to move on a road whose’s width could hold only 1 vehicle. We managed to reach the village somehow even after missing a turn. It was around 8.45 when we reached to a spot where we saw a board bearing the name of the village, a spot to park the vehicle and a definite trail… This was it.

Another flirt with the nature and we started moving along the trail where we reached a split. where we inquired a man about the right way to Sudhagad and he advised us to get a guide who’d charge around Rs.100 and he’d be useful to navigate through tricky splits that were around. A small discussion and we “OKeyd” for the guide. we sat there for a while, Vj spotted a cut spherical rock, probably twice the size of a canon ball, and tried lifting it… Even Vj the strongest man ( did I say heaviest.. 😉 ) in our team couldn’t lift it. Within few minutes, the same guy now draped in a shirt came with a scythe. He spotted the ball, and promptly lifted it from the middle of the road and put it on the other side and pushed it away. we had some jokes on Vj for that. Mukti saw the “weapon” in the guide (mama)’s hand and wondered about stories which Vj had fed, about localites looting the trekkers. But that was not the case and he moved swiftly past us, leading us.

We moved along till we came what we thought was a river bed. Some of our lads thought it was right time to have a “dry bath” ! And most of us managed to get in the frame.

at the river bed

…and the trek actually started, with less no. of stops, more of climbing, more of exertion, more of adventure, and finally and not the least less of a picnic.

I was at the back, with all the back-benchers, Vj was somewhere ahead of us, mama was leading with all the new recruits, like Rajoba, Neeraj, Awdesh trailing him. Ankush kept migrating from front to back. Mukti was at the back as well, and she was the one adding fuel to jokes on herself. We reached a point where we saw everybody waiting for the last comers. Mama had a question.

इकडून कठीण वाट आहे, आणि सरळ वाट इकडून

Vj was firm on the difficult route, I too was interested in it, Mama was not confident whether Mukti could make it through the difficult path, he advised the easier one, “which even the elders can take”. Mukti, ever so excited, was offended… Throw some Attitude… “Lets take the hard one”, … bravo…

Now mama showed why he carried the “weapon”, cutting the leaves, branches along, making a way through the hills. While everybody now started to feel the difficulty, it was still normal going for Ankush, me and Vijay, since we do this almost every month or so. But not for all.

Moving along the forest Moving along the forest

Another hr., we moved slowly, climbing the rocks, over loose soil and rock combination, as the time moved ahead, the distance between the skillfull climbers and others increased, with me still at the last after the slow climbers. I had Mukti, Neeraj in front of me. Neeraj had some weird shoes, which he was not comfortable in climbing, adding to his misery was a very heavy bag on his shoulders. Mukti was doing good, but at her own pace. Vijay and Ankush kept moving to and fro in the long file.

Mukti was fun to be around with, she has some sort of disorder which makes her laugh suddenly, which can go on for minutes together till she finally releases the details. Later Ankush, Gauri and almost all confirmed “isko daure aaten hain”.

Further ahead, we had to climb a steeper rock, which everybody managed to deal with a little difficulty, but with a positive result. Neeraj, Mukti and myself were the last, till we came a point where I saw Vj, Rajoba, Ashok and Ankush near a cistern in a small cave. I tried climbing from a very awkward rock cliff, which I couldn’t but then I circumnavigated it to reach the place, even Neeraj swiftly came behind, however I was holding his bag now.

Mukti stood there alone trying to figure out where should she move next, towards the cave or towards the other route where everybody were pushing ahead. She stood there. We asked her to move along the right side along a simple climb where we all joined her after descending that cave.

vijay-ankush-rutu vijay-amol-ashok

Another 15 mins took us to the peak, where there was just a fort wall, where we sat and quenched ourselves. I saw a small opening in the wall, into which was a steep climbing staircase, it reminded me of the air columns(pipes) in the Pyramids, thanks to NGC. I quickly moved into it and climbed … At the top, I saw some roots, at left there were some more of these roots. finally I came out of that air pipe, to the top, the top of the fort. I ran to the wall where I could see everybody sitting down. Ankush followed me as well.

At the top, Anksush asked me if I saw the creatures. I was unaware. I hadn’t seen any. But then Ankush reminded me of the Roots, which were moving, probably due to air currents or something. They were not plants, they were Spiders, with a body of 1mm3, but legs at least 5-10cm long. All creeping over each other.. in 1000s, no wonder they looked like some roots (moving ones). Eeaww… ! I climbed down swiftly trying to keep myself apart from them, Ankush followed down as well, but as soon Ankush climbed down of the stairs, suddenly 10 -20 spiders fell from the roof top on the stairs… That was a close call for Ankush. Mukti shrieked to her hearts extent.

Bad news for Mukti, we had to climb the stairs, to reach the top. But as sporting she was from the start, she did manage to get herself at the top.

Once at the top, the sun was on its full. Enough light, enough heat! Mama showed us a temple, where everybody got into to escape the heat and the sun. I went to the shadow of the temple, took a rock under my head and layed on the ground with another guy to my side, the temple Dog !

Sometime later, all came out, and I was the first one to express my need for food, and everybody was hungry as well. We decided to go to a hut, which was donated by the locals. Probably meant for people coming to Sudhagad, who can rest, have their food etc. And we had opened our bags, to get the food out. Bread was having a major stake in our diet this noon, more than 70%.

At lunch we all were eating bread, jam and butter. Few were having something else, Some had got some std. gujju snacks and mukti had got the traditional thepla. Most of us could control the extra bread intake, except for Danny, he was ON after having that extra bread. He was dancing… singing… weirdly, none of us had seen Mr. Route Nat this way. We tried to calm him down with whatever we had, some offered water, juice, etc. I tried to calm him down with the traditional way, I threw my shoes at him, but to no avail. He kept on going … We offered the caretaker some food, and Rs.20 to which he agreed to show us the takmaktok, the place from where traitors, prisoners were killed by pushing them into the deep valley.

The caretaker, danny, ashok and neeraj moved ahead quickly, while I was trying to find Vj and Santhosh, who’d probably gone to capture something. We roamed around till we saw a deep square dry well. So many adjectives… One more … creepy, this well was full with those spiders, in thousands. we threw a rock the bunch till they moved and Vj probably got that in the Video. Finally we decided its time to catch up with danny and others who’d gone ahead. But still we managed to wait and take snaps…

rutu mukti-rutu
all4 all2

Finally the photo session was over and we moved into the sun, searching danny and others, but they were nowhere to be seen. While I and Santhosh found some interesting, tibia and fibia of some animal mostly cattle category.. handled it, tried to break it by banging on the rock. The excitement ended almost instantly when we found that the bone was from a kind of fresh carcass. At first we thought the thing is totally dry, but as we closed … it was stenching badly… we moved quickly toward the other group, who’d wisely moved away from the carcass.

Further ahead we heard voices that I thought were that of Danny, but it was some loudspeaker in the valley ! the voice was coming clean and clear. It was some puja, but not Danny’s voice. Luckily we saw Sudani come from the distance. Who asked us to go further ahead towards the takmaktok. We reached there, Ankush was the first one and bravest of all to go till the cliff’s end and take peek, I too tried, which ushered an unknown feeling in my guts. We sat there and took more snaps.

towards-takmaktok towards-takmaktok towards-takmaktok
towards-takmaktok towards-takmaktok

Some of the guys hesitated to come near the cliff, but it was their wish. As we finished the cliff session, we moved on towards the final descent, towards the “Big dwaar”, which was the route mama had offered to take while climbing. The Door was a gigantic one, with standard hard-bound rock walls. This fort had a circular entrance, which is difficult to attack than a standard straight one. We had some water over there and thanks to Vj, more photos.

The circular entrance down at the door

From there on, the next stop was straight at the Base village, with some small stops for water, etc. We had good time descending, with even Gauri joining the laughter club, the topics didn’t go any far. All stayed around danny’s lunch show, which was still on, and Vj’s jokes (we need a different category for Vj’s jokes) and Mukti.

At the base Vj, me, Amol and danny had a nice bath (almost) at the hand pump, drank water till our bladders bloated. We decided to visit Pali’s Ashtavinayak. The temple was full of devotees, the line was a long one, it was out of question for anyone of us to be in there, so Gauri decided she shall have a quick look and come back, so did everybody.

After satisfying the auspicious God with bows, namaskars and all, it was time to Satisfy the Mr. Stomach. Ankush and Gauri again had to eat a vada pav, I settled for a “Kokam sharbat” (which tastes like Breezer – Mukti) in the nearby hotel, where everybody just sat wherever they could. Then there was chaos all over, with everybody wanting something, but later deciding to go with what the other had ordered, the waiter-uncle somehow managed to stay calm and astonishingly got the right no. of dishes for everybody (after all its his job to satisfy idiots like us)

Stomachs calmed down… now was the time for the trip back to Mumbai which seemed like months before we had been there. Luckily the tempo-traveller was booked to make us feel Mumbai a little closer. Unfortunately it was nowhere to be seen. I, Vj and Ankush moved ahead to search the vehicle to find it parked under a Banyan tree.

The vehicle moved amidst the busy small lane of Pali, and guess what, in the one-way. There were other S.T.s, vehicles coming in that lane, but our driver somehow managed to keep a face that stated “I’m right, they are wrong”. The driver was on some kind of ecstasy drug or something of that sort, atleast everybody felt that. He always took the wrong turn in the wrong lane and was very rash. Obviously he didn’t escape the teacher’s scolding.

Once on the highway, the Cleaner put some compilation CD which everybody in the bus applauded for and sang the songs. Sleep, tiredness, more jokes (jocks) came along.. till we reached Vashi where Ankush leaped off … and so on, Rajoba got down at Bandra and myself at Santacruz, after that… I guess everybody reached home safely and dozed off till the next day.

Naneghat Trek

Had been to this trek in the Malshej ghat region, to Naneghat. This ghat was extensively used in pre-British rule as a trade-route between the Deccan plateau and the Konkan Strip.

A special tax was also levied, and nane (Coins) were collected as tax, Any type of good was eligible as tax, from gold coins to cereals and grains.


… Traveling directions and more …


Travelling Directions

  • Get to Kalyan Station
  • Board bus that goes to Nagar via the Malshej ghat, Please cross check the local bus guys as well
  • When the ghat is just about to begin, dead between the highway is a signboard, Naneghat. Since most of the guys for this trek would be doing it at the night, Please make sure that you are alert to spot the signboard
  • From there onwards there is a trail for about 2 – 2 1/2 hrs, the first hour being a very simple trail, with only the last hour or so turning into a climb …

Totally Enjoyable

Harishchandragad Trek

Its almost the end of Monsoon, and the weather is just right for a trek, So I call Kapil @ 4.00 pm, 2nd if we can leave for a trek at night, and ask him if one more friend of ours can come along…

Luckily enough 3 of us gather at Dadar at 9.30pm the SAME day!. We board the Kalyan fast local train at around 10.30, to reach there at Kalyan’s S.T. stop around 11:45pm, to miss the second last bus of 11:30pm. Thanks to Kapil who couldn’t come in time at Dadar station, and blaming the Ganesh festival’s traffic.

Travelling Directions

Kapil was hungry, so we went a hotel, and kapil had aloo mutter sabji with chapati, it wasn’t very tasty, but was hot, even Anna liked it. It was almost 12.30 in the night, so we rushed towards the Bus stop, where we saw an ST coming… and it was “Kalyan – Nagar (aale phata)” bus, the one that we needed. There was some crowd at the stop from the begining, but we thought it was for someother bus, but as it had to be was for the Nagar bus. Some how we managed to get it in via the bus door, there were incidents where children were getting in the bus via the Emergency door so that they could grab a seat. The crowd was bad, we thought we had stand all our way till Madh bandh (the start of the Dam) which was a 3 hour ride. But as the crowd settled in, we just, I say just managed to find 3 seats to seat, we exchanged a seat with a Nagar localite so that Anna could join us in the backseat.

As the bus moved, a guy sitting next to me asked if we were going for a Harishchandragad trek, I was surprised, When I questioned him he said he was the same guy who guided us to the exit stop the last time we had been to the same trek (which was not a successful one). And the bus moved and we drowsy bums went to sleep(whatever we could muster in those Rainy season roads!)

I was not totally sleepy all the way, around 2.30am or so I woke up to see, that the ghat section was starting. Within 15 mins the ghat started, I knew because we were amidst clouds on a steep winding road. The visibility was not mroe than 10m or so, I really don’t know how the driver was finding his path. As the bus slowly moved along, I woke up Kapil and Anna to let them know that wee were closing towards our destination through this foggy, cloudly weather. Suddenly there were sounds of water flowing, as we looked adound we could only see some milky fluid flowing along the rocks, which we assumed to be waterfalls. We were adjusting to the low light when suddenly crashing noise came from top of the bus, It was a waterfall over the bus. The road moves from a waterfall, and the water falls right on top of the roof of the cars.

This place was one of the best I’d ever experienced in a trek. Soon I realized that our spot couldn’t be too far away when I suddenly spotted a hut with a single tubelight, this WAS OUR PLACE. I looked at Kapil and we knew this was where we had to get down, Anna was still looking through the window. The bus didn’t stop and we had to shout, which made the conductor stop the bus and ask us. As soon the bus stopped we jumped to our feet and asked the conductor to switch on the lights so that we could grab our backpacks and get down. As we alighted, the conductor asked us to be careful, as the visibility was poor and we were athe topmost point of the ghats.

We moved into the hut which was actually a small dhaba (serving only tea) owned by this character called Gajanan (villagers called him Balu). As we got in, Kapil asked him, “Olakhalas kaa ?” (Did you recognize us?), to which he laughed and said, “Aaj punha kaa?”, suggesting that he clearly remembered us from our last failed attempt where we did nothing but stayed in his dhaba for the whole night eating and drinking tea. As we started chatting with him, We felt the weather was much better than last time, The last time, it was a hurricane or a tornado or something! the Wind was extremly gusty with heavy rainfall, and believe a Mumbaikar(Bombay guy) when he says heavy rainfall. This time it was calm, with no real rains, but it was chilly AND extremly foggy.

I and Kapil decided that we should wait till 4.00am in the morning before we move towards the band(Dam) and tread along the 4 km jouney towards the base village Khireshwar. It was around 3.15 when we had reached the hut, had a couple of cuttings and were waiting for 4.00am AND the fog to clear. But the latter didn’t happen, and it shook Anna’s confidence a bit, it was getting 4.30 and yet the fog was bad. Anna even gave a hint that we shouldn’t complete the trek, But I and Kapil had other plans, After failing from the last trek, we were determined to go there. Gajanan or Balu even helped us feel better by lighting a fire.

I decided that we should wait till the light breaks into the sky, which was around 5.00am or so. Around 5 in the morning, the fog started to get a little blue, signs that there was light coming from somewhere. and around 5.30 it was clearly the break of dawn. But still the weather or the fog was bad, and kept us in the hut, but as time progressed, the enviornment started feeling better. Around 5.45 or so, I decided to clean up my last days food in this beautiful weather and was searching for the bottle, when the owner asked me if I needed a Pataryacha dabba (a can), I replied that I found the bottle :). Few minutes later, after having a little walk down the highway into the plains with bushes, I was a relieved man. Kapil too was relieved of the heavenly duties a few minutes later.

It was close to 6.00am and Balu aksed us to leave with the Truck who’d drop us till the start of the bandh. We got into the truck and enjoyed “The Bullock cart Ride”. The truck left us at the start of the Bandh, where we saw a Sign, “Harishchandragad – 4km”. We had a few snaps over there, before stared at 6.45am for the walk of 4km.

We moved towards the road, which was nothing but the top of the wall of a dam. And hence nothing but a flat road of about 15 feet wide with rocks stuffed into it. We could see ahead that the road was leading into a cloud or fog, I’m still not sure what it was, I guess it was a cloud. We started walking briskly calculating the time we’d take to reach the base 4kms down the road. As we moved ahead, we saw that we had fog before and behind us, we couldn’t even see the highway. On the left there were these lush green fields, and on the right a big lake, (It was a dam, on a lake or something, thats all that I still know). We even saw a group of ducks swimming around. The walk was a straight forward, after 15 min or so, the fog cleared a bit and we could see a village in the distance and the long road ahead. It took us exactly 1 hour to reach to the village.

At the village, we moved ahead until we asked a group of women filling water at the well, for the road towards Harishchandragad. They pointed us towards the direction, in which we moved until Anna spotted Aishwarya Hotel. Kapil was tempted to have a tea with some food. So we asked the guy, Mr. Chintamani to give 3 chais, while we gulped down some loaves of bread with Jam and Butter. The guy asked us if we needed some Lunch or anything.

There was group already eating the staple “Trek diet”, we had a chat with them, they said they had done Harishchandragad the last evening. I asked them if they had been to Konkan Kada (Konkan’s Edge). To which they replied that they were disappointed to be there but to see nothing but fog and clouds. We hoped to see Konkan kada which is a 1700 feet straight vertical drop and its like a big concave wall. They suggested us that we should not waste time trying to go there. We asked if they were returning home to which they replied “Nahi humlog abhi Nhane Ghat jayenge”. Hmm… 2 continues treks back to back. As we started packing our bags, Chintamani advised us to keep our unnecessary belongings like clothes etc at his place since it would be unnecessary load. So we stripped down our bags’s contents and loaded all the requried food and water into mine which was a big one. And we headed out, Chintamani also advised us to be back before late evening, as it would be dark early in the jungle.

And we moved towards the peak, we asked a localite the road towards Harishchandragad, he said take the first right and then the first left. I thought I was somewhere in the streets of Bombay. As we moved along, we came along a water channel running with water flowing from the rice fields, all the extra accumulated water flowing along the channels. Anna grabbed some snaps of the stream as well as group snaps. Moving ahead we saw a peak coming… And Kapil said “Rutu bhen#$%, woh dekh udhar jannaa hai”, I too looked ahead and was amazed by the climb we had to do. There was a full range of mountains ahead. None of us were sure where and which one was Harishchandragad. We only imagined it could be one of the peaks on the left. I shouted at Kapil “Bhen#$@# upun ko Mt. Everest nahi chadhana hai!!, ye kaahaan leke aaya too mujzhe?” We all were very excited looking at those peaks towering ahead in front of us, The clouds covered them from us, but the peaks had a strong line which indicated that they were there…somewhere !!!

The road ahead was a typical Paaul Waat (A way created by people constantly walking along crushing vegetation on the path, leaving a clear distinguishable path). The path now moved towards left and right, and we took the right path, as per the localite’s direction. As we moved ahead, Kapil thought he should have had brought a chalk or something, which we could mark for the rigth directions. Again the road came to a split, and we moved along the left way. We were hoping that the localite was right and we were moving agains the “correct left” that he’d mentioned. Suddenly Kapil shouted “Goa”, and said “Idhar Goa milaa hai, yaane aapan sahi raaste par hai.”. Go a is a local brand of Chewing Tobacco, Kapil had spotted its pouch and was happy some villagers or trekkers must have been in this direction.

Sometime later, another junction came upon, one which seemed to moved a little down the hill on the left and another through a small rote towards along the increasing climb. We thought that the right one “seemed” to be the right one and moved ahead. After a minute of walk or so, we came to a point where we had nowhere to go, and thought that it must had been the left road, so we went back again, and tried spotting the Goa packs along the left road, indeed we found some. A half-an-hour down the track we thought we took the right turn only leading us to a rocky edge from where the water was flowing… I asked Kapil if it could be the right way, He and Anna outrightly denied it. and yet again we backtracked our steps to take the right “left”. It took us down the hill for a while and then suddenly we heard the sound of water, a little ahead we saw that we had to cross a flowing stream of water, which otherwise looked tame, But our memories of Mauli trek’s river crossing hauted when we had no option but to wait for the villagers to make a human chain and help us cross the river or stream.

We moved along a typical Trek’s path all the way along when we heared a roaring sound of water falling. Little ahead we saw that water was falling over a rock on our path, and that particular area from where water was flowing was again falling over the edge, and we had to cross that. Kapil and Anna advised me not to be foolish and advised me to move ahead with care. As we crossed it I told Kapil, I’m sure that I’m gonna have a bath when we come down.

Half an hour more, and we thought we were nearing towards the end, when we saw a sign “Harishchandragad”. And we thought we were there. Then we saw a small temple from where the road split into 2, one on the right went down, and the other climbed over the temple. We thought we should go over the temple. And we moved, within a min, we came into the open air, all this time we were in the huge jungle canopy and suddenly we were in open air, with sky directly over us. The route ahead was a flat inclined rock with railings to assist the climb. Kapil said “Bhen@#$@#$ ye kyaa haai..? Bas apan yahi rukte hai.” , I said its not that difficult and I started climibing, making it comfortable for others to feel its not difficult. Soon the incline of the rock increased with more railings for support, Now Kapil and Anna started to move slowly and carefully, Every step they were taking time. And then we had another turn without railings this time, I looked ahead and said, “Are chal, tension mat le.. Iske rocks mein cuts hai, udhar paaun rakh aur side me pakad ke chal” Over us we could see another set of railings waiting for us. Both Anna and Kapil somehow managed to hold their nerve and get to the railings and climb further only to find me showing them a steeper turn and yet without railings.

This turn was really steep, with the the left side directly dropping 30-40 feet near the previous railings we’d encountered. Anna and Kapil had it. They were not ready to move ahead, I too thought if 2 out of 3 find its risky, I should give up going ahead, However I wanted to go ahead. Kapil thought that the Wet slippery rocks of Monsoon were too risky and Anna duely agreed. So we sat there over the edge having some shots of the cliffs right in front of us, It reminded me of watching the terrace of adjoining building from my own building’s terrace. However this building was around 4000 feet high.

Few minutes later we decided we should return back, and I was firm that I’ll have a bath at the waterfall. The decent was comparatively easy for us. Soon we reached the waterfall. We threw our shirts and went straigt into it, only to come out of it. “Bhe#@$ Kapil, ye bahut thandaa hai”, I said. “Ruuk main bhi aa rahaan hun”, We had nice fun over there, coming in and out of the fall. Anna managed to get his digital cam set with a timer and click all of us. Then we decided to have food, Someone had an idea that we should have at the hotel, but I was too hungry to listen, and started eating. Nobody else could resist, and we filled our stomachs and drank the pure mineral water of the stream.

We climbed down, without any other problem straight to have some tea at Aishwyarya Hotel, There we handed the guy a tip to allow to keep our bags, to which he first denied but later kept it. He also brought out a book and asked us to fill our names. He’d kept the log all visitors who’d come to visit Harishchandragad. He even showed us a photo where a group had carried bicycles to the peak.

We thanked him and moved back along the Bandh, behind a localite. We moved along silently when the localite suddenly decended from the bandh to green fields on the right, and we shouted and asked him if he was going towards the highway. He said he too wanted to get board a S.T. Bus and was going towards the highway, and suggested us that we should follow him as the route would take half the time it’d take along the bandh. We agreed and started following him.

Along the way, we crossed the river “Kaalu”, moved along the rice fields in a crisp afternoon sun, the temprature too was just warm enough to make us feel drowsy. Kapil said “Vartak bhenc#$%, I’m in love with this place, Mein iske uuper Ph.D karungaa.” After half-an-hour or so, we reached the highway, to find Balu’s (Gajanan’s) dhaba shut. We waited for the S.T. and we manged to get into the second one, as the first we thought was crowded. Adding to our tireing body, we found even that bus totaly crowded, and we could only manage to stand at the back.

Soon the bus moved through the Waterfalls, where we saw the Sunday’s holiday picknickers enjoying on the road. And… we fell asleep (we were standing, only true Mumbai Local commuters know how to sleep while standing). The S.T. bus driver was in a wrong seat, he should have been racing along Alonso and Schumaker, He was turing, overtaking at speeds over 60kmph, giving us a feel of some sort of a joyride, Finally we got to sit after 2 hrs, the rest 1 our I don’t rememeber, I only remember reaching Kalyan market when the traffic sound woke us. We took a fast train for Dadar, and then on we headed back to our beds to find more of Harishchandragad in our sleep.

Travelling Directions

  1. Get a train for Kalyan (Central Line) from Dadar (or where ever you are)
  2. Get a S.T.(State Transport) bus for Nagar, make sure its going from the Malsej Ghat (I don’t think there is another route though, just to be on safe side)
  3. Alight at Madh Bandh, make sure you let few commuters know where you are going. Get down near Gajanan’s Tapari.
  4. Take the road towards the Bandh, which is about 4 km walk to the base village of Khireshwar

Lohagad Visapur Trek

This write-up of our Lohagad Visapur trek by my ever so de#$% friend Kapil Naik.

History tells Columbus wanted to discover India. In the process he landed in Caribbean islands. First he thought it was India. It was only when he realised that it wasn’t India, but a group of islands in the continent of America itself, islands were named as west Indies.

Why am I telling this story, we all suppose to know? Soon you will get the answer.

Everything was roughly planned for a trek to LOHGHAD, a fort near the malawali station, which is some kilometers away from lonavala and the same was conveyed to sanjay, mangesh, rutu, arvind, sid and hrishti by me and irfan. But little did everyone know that one of the person who planned it was in a mess, just a few hours before we were supposed to leave on Saturday night

I was given some (actually many) ssc papers for correction by one class in borivali. It was on urgent basis so I couldn’t dare say no. At 1.30 p.m. on Saturday (day we leave for trek) I started to realise that job was out of control and possibly I will not be able to join my friends for the trek. I let this knew to irfan and guess what I came across one of the most surprising gesture I could ever come across. “Any help? Shall I come down to your place to assist you?” was the reply.

Just imagine a fellow was coming to my place only to assist me in my job after travelling more than 2 hrs so that I myself do not miss the trek. Thanks a lot irfan. Without thinking for a second I said yes. I requested (actually ordered) sanjay to join us. So there you are, three of us struggling to finish the job so that we could leave in time. Others were asked not to leave their residence unless we call them up after finishing the job. I will tell you for 3-4 hrs, it was so neck to neck that many times I asked the 2 visitors to leave for trek without me. But I was not destined to miss the upcoming drama.

Thanks to a brilliant irfan-idea that we were able to some how finish the job before 9 p.m. We couldn’t finish late than that, as the last train to pune was at 11.40 p.m. from VT As I packed my bag, irfan and sanjay called up everyone to meet at bandra station so that we could at least catch the last train. I tell you from my past experiences of trek that, engineers really can think fast in a crunch situation. We plnned, conveyed it and executed all at one time.

Arvind decided not to join us as he thought he would be deprived of some sleep by leaving so late. Yaar, arvind I do respect your thought that you need a bit of rests as Monday is working day. But I will tell you no matter how early you leave some nuts in our group will not let anyone sleep. (Rutu and I can promise you that.) Any way we all duly respect your decision and hope for your presence for the next outing. We did miss you.

And yes how on earth I forget this? Sanjay and irfan had a cup of tea each at my house. Bastardos didn’t pay for it. They thought it was fukat (free of cost). I suppose, ye sub mangesh ki sangat ka asar hai.

So finally we left my residence with a great satisfaction that trek was on. Smartly sanjay did not forget to take camera from his house as we halted the rickshaw for a few minutes at his residence. Money, camera, eatables, personal gearing against winter season, did we forget anything? Yes we certainly did. And we would realise it later on how important was the thing we forgot to take with us.

I myself, irfan, sanjay, mangesh, rutu arrived in time at bandra station. Only one fellow was missing as Sid decided not to come at 11th hour. Mr. Hrishikesh brid, the person who is believed to some how evade our plans many times in the past. After a few anxious moments finally he arrived. I will tell you hrishi on a trek is a thing to be kept in museum. He wears apparels as if he is going to Everest. He always has a dadaji’s cap on and a huge bag as well. That magical bag, I promise contains food and other necessary things for everyone. Very nice of him.

Now after me it was irfan’s turn to add some spice to our trek. He told us that one of his classmate in MBA college named ***** (I forgot her name) was about to leave for south by some other train around that time. So I suppose as all of us were at dadar station waiting for a train bound to v.t, this fellow was talking to *****. Knowingly or unknowingly he kind of got lost on dadar station only to force us leave a few VT bound trains. We were getting late. Already irritated sanju baba recommended that we take the next upcoming train to VT and wait for irfan at VT terminus. We thought we would keep in touch with irfan on his mobile.

We waited, waited and waited at VT terminus. Irfan did not arise nor he stopped speaking to ***** on mobile. It was engaged. We were caught in odd situation as neither we could take tickets for malawali nor the last train at 11.40 p.m. was going to delay its departure for a few engineers. I could see our plan collapsing.

But I have already told you that engineers work best under pressure. Rutu sanjay and I myself came up with a cracker of idea. We set fielding like sourav ganguly sets on a cricket ground. Sanjay stood at the local train terminus, rutu stood at the terminus of through trains and I stood near the ticket window with 150 rupees (for 6 persons) ready in my hand. Idea was that the moment sanjay spots irfan getting down from local train, he would signal to rutu who in turn would signal to me at the window to take the tickets. Again we waited, waited and waited. There was no signal to me from rutu, which obviously meant sanjay had not spotted irfan. Finally it happened what we feared. The siren of the train went on. It was 11.40 p.m. sharp. The train started to leave before our eyes.

But I told you I was not destined to miss the trek from the beginning. He was spotted by sanjay. Came the signal to me via rutu.

“Six malawali station” I shouted. It didn’t matter much to man behind the glass. “Are train to nikal gayi, abhi konsa ticket” was the reply from him. “ are aap dedo bus, hamari chinta chodo” I yelled. Very slowly, showing no signs of panic he typed details and gave me the ticket (he was probably an engineer, you see he did not panic). I ran with all my heart with tickets firmly in my hand. Others also started to run towards train as they probably spotted me coming in. And guess what, 5 Bastardos got inside one compartment without giving me prior indication. I got perplexed thinking in which bogie they must be in. I was running along with very slowly moving train. “ Abe idher” one of them shouted from the door of the next bogie (which was last but one). I could easily catch the bogie, as the train was yet to catch the speed. Finally all six of us were in a train bound to malawali safe and sound. Hushhhh the trek was on.

Irfan and I myself once again agreed that, in every trek, some how we are able to come through situations which were hopeless.

We settled down on an upper birth. Sanjay and mangesh got a seat on lower birth. It was a passenger train. No reservations. Everything on first come basis. Luckily all of us got a seat. Sanjay got a nice company also. A bewada. I fail to understand why on earth these bewadas catch sanjay first in any safar. Sanjay do reply to this. I guess in our 1st trek also a bewada sat besides you. (Remember dev babu). Any way stars were not that bad for sanjay, a cute village girl replaced bewada very soon. Now sanjay could afford to smile a little.

Now you must be thinking what Mr. Vertak has been doing all so long. How come his name is not cropped up so far. I will tell you, a supposedly called couple was doing a little bit unparliamentary activities before our upper birth. And rutu was getting a little annoyed. You see, he is having same problematic stars like me. Come may what we will never be able to have a girlfriend, before marriage. So both of us were a little upset with our stars.

No one could sleep as seats were not at all comfortable (what else you will get in Rs 25). We got down at malawali station. It was a well-maintained station but was absolutely lonely. Probably we were the first ones to get down since its existence. A funny thing happened on the station. Rutu and I myself decided to use ladies toilet just to see how different it is from male toilets. As we were about to enter it, lights went off and we had a laugh saying there is some bhutataki or a system, which identifies male intruders.

It was 3.30 in the moring. Mangesh, sanjay and irfan decided to have a nap. Others were uneasy, as they wanted to create some pressure inside stomach for early morning call. I have mentioned earlier that we forgot something important. It was bottles of water. Most important part of any trek. We did miss it during both types of uses of water. We had to manage with a small bottle of water throughout the trek.

At about 5.30 a.m. in the morning we decided to formally begin the trek which was already full of unexpected things. After some time walking towards the fort we came across the steps of visapur caves (visapur is another fort near our supposed destination of lohghad). As it was too dark we all had consent that it is not advisable to start a trek because we will not be able to come across the beauty of the nature. Finally arvind, we got it, a nice sound sleep on the wide steps of caves. It was small but sufficient enough to make us energetic again. It was a lovely experience to sleep in a pin drop silence, in cold, under the clear blue sky with constellation of stars blinking at us. I will cherish these moments and times I spent with my friends for all my life. Who knows we all may not get such time again in our life as we friends become focussed on our duties and family in the future?

After a short nap we decided to head to the village at the base for a cup of tea. The people in the village were nice to us. (Villagers are usually very nice to visitors) One of them showed us the right direction to the base, which is common to LOHGHAD fort and VISAPUR fort.

It was a lovely morning with decently low temperature and light. We kept heading towards the common base through dried fields. A few poses for photos would halt our proceedings. We did notice one exceptional thing happening around us. Mr. Brid was leading the pack. Usually he is supposedly a bit slow climber. But this time he was all determined and was heading the pack, showing us the shortcuts like a professional raju guide would do.

As we started to climb towards the base which is common to the 2 forts, light started to enhance and so the temperature. Early morning rays of the sun god kissing the cliffs were worth taking the photographs. We reached the common base. We ourselves decided which one is visapur and which one is the other one. Sometimes you know, engineers do stupid things. Remember I started of with a story of Columbus reaching some unknowing destination supposing it was India. We did the same thing by starting to climb visapur thinking it was lohghad. Believe it or not even after walking for more than one hour we did not realise it was visapur. We simply kept walking along a dusty road, which was going parallel to the fort. We were seeing no end. I shouted in frustration,” koi hai”. Came the reply” koi hai, koi hai”. An echo. Wow, everyone started screaming. What they shouted is again unparliamentary, I can not mention here. Rutu was at his best (you see he will never become an MP). Some joy on an aimless walk. After a while we came across a shortcut.” Often shortcuts turn out to be long cuts” wise words came from one of us (don’t remember the person). And how true it was. We continued only to realise that we are descending, so a wrong way. We had to leg the same path but in reverse direction.

As mentioned above each time we are in hopeless situation we manage to get through. We came across a villager (god must have sent him, remember the band of drunkards at mahuli) who informed us that this is visapur and not lohghad. We were annoyed at our mistake. We had no option but to continue. We decided to climb lohghad after we complete visapur trek in the afternoon. Interestingly the same villager showed us one path (which did not look like a path) and said this way you can go to visapur. It will take 45 minutes.

Let me explain this, it was a pawoolvat (Marathi, path created by trespassers), which was narrower than narrow. And to our disbelief grass as tall as 1.5 times of human being was to the both sides of the pawoolvat. We all really first doubted the villager as it was impossible to look beyond one meter due to tall grass. We all had to kind of brush it aside with both hands to move forward. A photo was mandatory here.

This was exciting. A real manly job, you know. Having a glass of wine close to beautiful lake can be cool but isn’t quite manly. Now do not open a debate, opinion is personal without having disrespect against anyone.

We kept heading. After a while tall grass started to disappear. Have you seen the film ek duje ke liye starring kamala hasan? In the film hasan sits on a coconut tree which almost horizontally had grown by nature. We came across similar kind of a branch of a tree, which was horizontal. We all did a kamal hasan. Now everyone was having a stick in their hands. We would use it as if we were shivaji maharaja.

As soon as the tall grass ended we came across thick vegetation, almost a jungle. We did not know which way to go. Again it was hrishi who suggested the direction saying that a path going upward has to be the one. The path led us to a dry riverbed, which would take us to the top of the mountain, visapur fort. Rivers in kokan region run out of water after rainy season as they exist only because of rain. Like rivers of north (which are brimful water throughout the year) rivers in kokan area do not get flooded with water because of melting of snow. These dried and arid beds of rivers are nothing but big rocks which turn round and smooth due to water flowing over them for ages. Climbing through such type of bed of river was a nice experience.

The end of the riverbed led us to the top of the mountain. Just before the entrance we came across a small cave. With impending fear of bats we entered the cave. Apart from an old reservoir of water (pretty dirty) there was nothing interesting. Now finally we were at the top of mountain, the visapur fort, possibly more than 3500 feet.

Now it was time to move around the fort. First we moved towards eastern outer wall of the fort. A nasty looking deep valley just beyond the outer wall of the castle trying to swallow everything that falls into it gave us the sense of achievement. After all this is what we strive for. This is where we want to reach. Height, height and more height. The moment you reach there, I mean the top, all pain and cramps in muscles take a back seat and we end up doing nothing but punching the air in excitement. Mission accomplished.

We kept on moving along the outer wall of the castle. These outer walls would have opening for canons to fire those bombshells. As we moved towards the western outer wall of the castle, we came across a Plato. It was really a massive Plato. Looking at the mountain cliffs from the base one would fail to imagine the kind of flat surface that exists at the top. This Plato must be a mute witness to the past 300 years of history including rise and fall of Marartha Empire. Old reservoir of water, old days manually operated grinder of wheat, and an old days kolu ka bail (if any one knows the right word, let us know, in Marathi we call it telacha Ghana) took us back to days we couldn’t witness. The water in the reservoir was so ugly looking that we people living in urban areas wouldn’t even wash our hands with it let alone drinking. But you know we have a character who would do a thing which normally other boys in the group wouldn’t do, mangesh. He did drink that water. He is different. Remember he was the only one who had a bath in the well in previous trek (mahuli.)

The view from the Western Wall of the castle was something I truly fail to describe in words. In the outer wall of this side there are three medium sized openings at two different places. The wind was very much strong at this place. With the sinking view of a hostile valley and Mumbai-pune express highway, which looked like a pawoolvat from that height, we decided to have lunch. Lunch consisting of parathas, parathas and parathas. Probably hrishi had some puris with him in his magical bag. But heavens curse us, we had forgot to take any water. And I do not know about others but I was certainly running out of water. My mouth was drying out quickly and I could feel pain to the left of my stomach. I wouldn’t be concerned if another trek of lohghad was not impending. I really started to doubt my ability to have a go at lohghad after descending visapur. After the lunch we started to descend. It was least difficult with some really good advice from rutu about how we should tackle descending. As I was literally dragging myself to the common base from where we could go to lohghad after a little break. I was desperate for water and I could see irfan and hrishi also feeling the same. Hrishi was back to his old days. Now he was last in the pack. Sanjay and rutu had the will to go onto lohghad even if in case we fail to get some water at the common base. Mangesh, well he is different. He can go for a week without water I guess.

At the common base we had two options.1) to drink water available (had frogs in it) or 2) start climbing lohghad without any water. Irfan, hrishi and I myself were not ready for both. We chose to descend completely from common base to where we started in the morning. We had a difference of opinion with sanjay and mangesh. Sanjay was of the opinion that the amount of energy we spent in coming down from the common base to the village was same as that would take to climb the lohghad from the common base. Three of us disagreed. I do not understand how going up from the common base and coming down to village could be same as to going down from common base to village. Purely going by the distance to be travelled there is no similarity, whatsoever. Any way the crux of the matter is that we should have carried water with us. And yes we all those who did not want to go to lohghad do apologize to sanjay for not backing his ambition. But you know it is better not to mix you abilities with your ambitions.

So finally amidst all arguments we reached the base village. A few more parathas with shrikhand was truly delicious. A little bit of rest and we started to climb the steps of bhaje caves. These were the same steps, which we turned them into our beds early in the morning. Bhaje caves are the ancient caves belonging to the era of samrat ashok. Allas there was some greenery. A family had arrived to visit the caves. I must say the daughter was really and extremely good looking. Guess what? Rutu felt the same (you know our stars). I guess hrishi was the most impressed. We were not too much interested in caves, as we did not understand the purpose behind it. They were simply caves with no murtis. Any way the visit was made fruitful by the presence of someone really as good as a murti.

So there ended the journey of modern day Columbus. We came back to mumbai via lonavala. Many people would wrongly call it a failed attempt to lohghad. But let me mention the reaction of a rickshaw-wala (base village to lonavala) when we told him that we have been to visapur fort just now.

“ Are sab visapur, to koi jyada jata nahi. Poora Jungle hai. Sub trekkers lohghad jate hai. Wo easy hai”

Kaps. (Kapil)

Mauli Trek

This is a write-up by my friend Irfulal (Irfan) of our experience at the trek of Mauli.

Adventure unlimited. Never ending excitement. The ultimate trekking experience. I feel sorry for those who could not make it, at the same time I feel happy that I live to tell the tale.

Saturday, July 26. As decided I was waiting under the indicator at 8:30 pm at CST station. As I took a bite from the chicken roll in my hand, the phone rang. It was Kapil. He said he was at Dadar station. He said he would take the train from there. Then I called Arvind. He too was at Dadar with the others & would not be able to come to CST on time & would take the train from there. I told him to look for Kapil. I had to take the 8:42 local from CST. It was the last fast train for Kasara. We had to take it. I told them where exactly I would board the train. The train was moving past Parel station when Arvind called again asking me to get down at Dadar since Mangesh had not arrived. I was hanging out so that they could see me. I was looking for them as the train pulled into the crowded Dadar station. I heard cries of,”Irfan… Irfan.” I saw them & waved. Somebody standing behind me said,”bhaisahab shayad aapko koi bula raha hai.” I said,”malum hai.”

I jumped down on the platform. The whole group ran towards me & said,” get in…get in”. All of us pushed ourselves into the compartment that was now packed. Presumably Mangesh must have arrived. We were seven in all. Myself, Sanjay, Kapil, Arvind, Vartak, Sid & Mangesh. We had got into one of those karaoke compartments. There was a group singing Gujarati bhajans at the top of their voices banging the bogie walls hard for percussion. We were all packed tight in the crowd, could not move one bit, clutching on to the handles for balance. Finally at Dombivli the crowd loosened up. Even the bhajan group got off. We went inside & kept our bags on the rack.

Just then we saw people on the platform running helter-skelter & shouting. It was a bomb scare or maybe someone had noticed a fire in the train. People in our compartment pounced on their bags & scampered out. We did the same. On the platform it was like a stampede. I had never seen the public so petrified & running for their life. We tried to see if there was a fire but could not spot anything. Just then the train horn blared & it started moving. We realized the bomb scare was a hoax. We got back in the train & secured our places. There was another group of 16 boys in the compartment playing antakshri in a loud & wild manner. We were irritated. But little did we know how useful this group would be for us.

We reached Asangaon station at 10:30 pm. The question now was, how to reach Mahuli. Let me tell you what made us come here. In the previous week I had read an article in the Times on trekking spots around Mumbai in which Mahuli was mentioned. That was all we knew about this place. We crossed the tracks & came to a hanuman temple where all of us changed to our shorts. We asked a local for directions. He asked us to go straight through the village onto the highway beyond which is the road to Mahuli. A walk of around one hour would take us to a Shiva temple, which is the base of the trek.

We kept walking straight on the narrow village road with houses on both sides. Then we came to a dead end. The highway was in front of us but it was very high above the ground level. We would have to climb up to it. It was dark. Kapil showed the way with his torch & we climbed up onto a dark long highway.

Huge roaring trucks whizzed past with their bright lights beaming on the wet tar strip. Now we had to look for the road to the Shiva temple. A little distance ahead we saw the group of 16 boys getting down from the opposite side of the highway. We followed them.

We climbed down on to a narrow road. Their group moved ahead & we walked some distance behind them. Probably this was the road to the Shiva temple. The group ahead was a bunch of taporees. Some of them were drunk & were shouting like crazy. But one of them was a decent guy. More importantly he had been to Mahuli a few years back so we thought we’d stay behind this group. We kept walking and left the highway far behind.

Slowly the shouting & singing subsided. It was dark & silent all around. This was a very haphazardly made road just wide enough for a bus to pass, without any streetlights, infected with potholes. There were no houses there. It was pitch dark. No light in sight. There was no civilization for miles on either side of the road. We had to use our torch to see our way on the road. Suddenly the torch went off. Now all we could see were frequent flashes of light from the torch of the group ahead. Imagine you are blindfolded, walking in a forest, not knowing where you are going. Occasionally the silence would be hampered by the shrill noise of crickets in the grass, or the croaking sound of toads. There would be brief showers of rain every few minutes & in the dark we would trip in the water filled potholes. This was getting creepy every moment. We kept wondering whether we were on the right path. We would not have dared come so far if the other group was not ahead of us. Occasionally we would spot tiny yellow sparks flying around. These were fireflies. The vegetation grew denser & huge trees surrounded us. We could hear the sound of water flowing. Probably we were walking beside a stream. Sometimes the sound of water grew louder & we could make out white patches of foam in the distance created by water flowing over the rocks. Sometimes the streams flowed across the road. We would wait for the group ahead to cross the water just to make sure the depth of the water. Then we would wade through the flow. We had already walked for one & a half hour now.

The group ahead stopped. There was a diversion ahead. The road split into two. Now where do we go? Left or right? Both of them looked the same – dark. All of us stayed there while two guys from the other group went ahead on the right hand side road. They returned after ten minutes & said there was nothing beyond that road. So we would now resume moving on the left hand side road. We were moving with the other group since they had a torch. In the torchlight we saw a huge toad lying in the middle of the road. One of the guys kicked it off track. Are we going on the right way? What if we come to a dead end? What if we have to go back? These questions kept hounding us. The trek had not started yet. But the adventure certainly had. It was well past midnight.

We saw a hut. At last some proof of human existence. One of the guys went up to the hut to see if there was someone. There was no light there. He came back without any news. There was nobody there. We would have to keep moving on like ignorant nomads. After having prodded for another twenty minutes we came up to a board with a picture of a monkey on it. It was put up by the forest conservation authorities to spread awareness about protection of wildlife. A little beyond the board was a house. Adjacent to it was another structure that looked like a temple. Was this the Shiva temple? Someone from the other group went to check. He shouted back, calling us & confirming that we had finally reached our destination.

It was 1:30 am. We had been walking for almost three hours. We went off the road, stepping on the wet grass, wading through a flowing stream, towards the Shiva temple. A simple box type structure with a pyramidal dome. At the entrance stood an idol of the nandi bull about two feet high facing the shivling exactly opposite at the rear end of the temple. A few bells hung in the center. There were no windows, but there were openings with grills on all sides of the temple. The group of 16 guys settled near the left hand side of the shivling & we secured our place on the left hand side closer to the entrance. Opposite us there was a Punjabi family already in deep sleep. We squatted on the temple floor & had some snacks. Mangesh had brought a sheet of cloth. We lay it on the floor & lied on it using our bags as pillows. The temple light was switched off. I tried to sleep. But could not. The other group was creating a lot of noise. Some nuts in our group as well were not too keen on sleeping & were disturbing those who were trying to. Also it was very cold since there were no windows to shield us from the chilly winds at night. But Sid slept. He did not give a damn to what was happening around him. Even an earthquake would not wake him up.

All of us did catch a small nap. I opened my eyes at the crack of dawn & watched the morning unfurl gradually & reveal the beauty of the surroundings. The previous night everything was black. Now everything was green. There was a house adjacent to the temple where the temple caretaker stayed. Between the temple & the house was a little stream flowing. In front of the temple was a well. But where was the entity we had come all the way for. Where was the mountain? Almost everyone was up & awake (except Sid of course). We came out of the temple & went up to the well for a wash. As I turned back to go back in the temple I saw a huge dark green mass encompass the horizon. I could only see the lower half of it since most of it was covered with fog. I said to myself, “Wow! We’ve got to conquer that!”

Sid woke up. We had hot soothing tea at the caretaker’s place. There was a notice board inside the temple giving details about the trek & the Mahuli fort that was perched atop the mountain. The only thing I was interested in was the height of the mountain. 2815 feet. Not much. But what matters is the nature of the trek. The difficulty level. We had already scaled Kalsubhai peak, which was 5350 feet so this should be a piece of cake. I was wrong.

One smart move was to leave all the bags with the caretaker & carry just one bag containing the food & money. So all of us had our hands free & no load to carry. Vartak carried that one bag all the way during the ascent. Thanks to him. He is very agile. Fresh, excited & full of anticipation we tread on the path towards the mountain that started from behind the temple. It was 7:45 am. It was a flat route. Not much of an ascent. We had not actually started the climb. We were chatting, laughing & admiring the flora & fauna around. I could hear the sound of water flowing but was unable to spot the source of that sound because of the thick vegetation. The sound became louder & suddenly we were stopped in our track by a river. This was the Barangi River. If we had to move on, we had to cross it. The group of 16 guys were already there making an attempt to cross it. It was not deep. Just above the knees. But it was fast, as if in a hurry, unstoppable by the huge rocks, creating white foam as it pushed its way through them. Both the groups formed a human chain clasping each other’s hands. I stepped into the water one person holding my right hand moving ahead of me & another person holding my left hand moving after me. The water was cold & trying to sweep you off your feet. Slowly we crossed the river & came out on the other side. It was great fun. I felt like playing in the water. With water in our shoes, we moved on. The ascent had started. We spotted different kinds of crabs & other crawling insects creeping under the rocks & hiding amongst the plants. The trail was now in the form of steps carved into the rocks. I personally do not like trekking routes to have such steps. It becomes monotonous & unchallenging. Mangesh & I moved much ahead of the others. We could still not gauge how high we had climbed because we were still in the midst of trees. It was like walking through an equatorial rainforest. We thought we’d wait for the others & then move on together. It was then that I realized that the moment you stop moving you will be attacked by swarms of mosquitoes. More irritating were these blood-sucking insects. I had never seen anything like that. They were like huge flying ants. They stick to your body & administer a sting that feels like an injection & start sucking your blood like leeches. You have to actually pluck them off your skin. All of us had scores of these stings on our bodies that kept on itching for days after the trek. No wind was blowing. There was a strange silence in the forest, which gave you a feeling as if you were somewhere you were not supposed to be. The entire group was terrified of snakes that are found on such spots especially during the rains. That was another reason why the dense vegetation seemed to be so unpredictable. We could hear Kapil & Sanjay discussing the species of a particular bird they might have spotted. They were getting close. The whole group got together & we started climbing again.

As we moved further on, the steps diminished. Now it was a natural path. More challenging. Then it happened. What I was waiting for. Rain. Now the equatorial rain forest setting was complete. We did not have any protection at all. We were drenched in an instant. This rain did not stop the whole day. As we kept climbing over the rocks, catching hold of trees & small plants, we noticed water flowing down the trekking route. As the rain continued the volume of water flowing down kept on increasing. We were almost climbing in a stream against the current. We had to take breaks after every few minutes of climbing for everyone to catch up. We were especially concerned for Sid, wondering if the trek was too taxing for him. But he was trying his best. At no point during the trek did he give a feeling that he was a liability on this trip. Hats off to his sporting spirit. Not only did he enjoy himself but also is keen on going for another trek. At every steep rock the stream would turn into small waterfalls & it was thrilling climbing such rocks with all the water pouring on you. The ground vegetation was now very thick and above our head level. We had to move the plants with our hands to move ahead not knowing where we were taking our next step.

The track became narrower & the mountain began revealing itself. Every now & then we would see a glimpse of the huge mountain. We have seen the most breathtaking views on this trip. A huge mountain range covered in dark green velvet cut at various places by white streaks of waterfalls pouring down from the top to the base & transforming into rivers that flowed out of the valley. The entire green valley was being lashed with heavy wind & rain. Then a veil of white fog would come & blanket the whole valley like a shy woman hiding herself behind a curtain.

Then came the most difficult stretch of the trek. There was a sheer drop on the left hand side & we could see the deep valley waiting to swallow us. The track was playing tricks with us. Sometimes the valley would be on our left & then suddenly it would emerge on to our right. I would walk ahead & then shout back at the others warning them, which side the drop would be & what lay ahead. It was more dangerous because we were walking on barren, slippery, moss infected rocks with water flowing over them. At one point of time there was a steep drop on both sides with only two feet of ground width for us to walk without any support. Then Sid tripped & fell flat on his chest. His face hit a rock & was bruised. We went to help him but he just lay there for a while gathering his senses. Everyone was dumbstruck. He got up on his own & we moved on. After this incident everyone was very serious. The talking stopped. Anyone who opened his mouth was asked to shut up. The amount of ground for foothold became narrower. At a particular stretch we had to walk sideways with our back towards the rock & looking down at the valley holding the plants for support. At that point any distraction could be disastrous. Everyone was quiet & focussed.

The rain gods were busy doing their job. We came up to a vertical rock face. There was an iron ladder attached to it about ten feet high. It was not as simple as climbing the ladder & reaching up. The vertical face continued well beyond the ladder. We had to climb to the end of the ladder & then move on a narrow shelf of rock on the huge vertical face. This was absurd. People could easily die at this place. Whoever constructed it ought to have made it safer. I approached the ladder & began climbing it clasping the rusted iron firmly. I thought I wouldn’t, but I looked down to see the sheer drop hundreds of feet below into a dense forest. If the ladder gave away I would be gone for good. At that moment it seemed so silly to rely on a pipsqueak rusted piece of iron for your life. I came to the end of the ladder. Now I had to secure my grip in a crevice on the rock face & haul myself on the narrow shelf on my left hand side. One by one everybody crossed this obstacle. Now it was just climbing on & on for long following the water streaming down around sharp bends & between thick undergrowth. Every few minutes flat stretches of land were emerging which gave an indication that we were close to our target. There would not be any peak at the end as the mountaintop was in the form of a rugged plateau. At one point beside the track was a ledge of rock protruding out as if it were a diving board to serve as a suicide point. I moved on to it & lied down flat on my stomach at the edge so that I could look down. I was flabbergasted by the view. As if I were flying over heaven. I took a deep breadth wishing to take in the entire view inside me.

It was all flat land now. The rain had intensified & it was lashing hard because of the strong winds. We were engulfed by fog. I was sort of acupunctured all over by the pricks of the lashing raindrops. We saw a huge water reservoir. Such reservoirs are dug deep into the mountain. One of the remnants of Mahuli fort. We had reached the top. We walked ahead till we reached steps formed by huge blocks of stone going down to small caves carved in the mountain. We cleaned ourselves in the rainwater dripping at the entrance of the cave. The group of 16 guys were already there. It was 10:30 am. The ascent had taken almost three hours. We waited for them to leave after which we sat down to eat. We removed our wet t-shirts. It was very cold. The rain was still pouring. We did not feel like stepping out of the cave. But we had to. We came out at around 11:45 am to commence the descent.

As I moved up the steps of stone I heard the sound of water. I went in the direction of the sound & what did I discover. A huge waterfall. I yelled in excitement calling the others. About one floor high it was crashing down making a deafening roar. The water was light brown because of all the silt it carried with it. There was a small shivling kept near it. Vartak, Sid & I stepped into the water moving cautiously towards the fall. I thrust my hand into it to check the pressure of water. It was enormous. This was mind blowing. All three of us formed a chain & thrust ourselves under the torrent. The entire cascade was hammering down on us. The water was ice cold & the pressure of the water was hitting us hard. This experience made the entire ascent worth wile.

The descent gave some warmth to our cold shivering bodies. Soon the group split. Sanjay, Kapil, Mangesh & I went much ahead of the others. As we were going down we came across many people moving up. Groups of girls & boys, families with kids & elders. We wondered how they would manage to complete this trek. Descent is as taxing for the legs as ascent. Especially for your toes & knees.

The four of us reached Barangi river & were about to cross it when we were stopped by the group of 16 guys. They warned us not to even step into the water. We saw two of the guys sitting with their legs bleeding. We asked what happened. Because of the incessant rain the volume of the Barangi river had swollen which they did not realise. When they tried to cross the river two guys were swept by the force of the water & hurt their feet on the rocks in the water. Luckily they held onto some plants & were pulled out with the help of ropes. So now what. How would we cross the river? The only way would be to wait for the rains to stop & the water to calm down. We saw people gathering on the opposite bank of the river. We shouted & told them what the situation was. They had long ropes with them. They would tie the rope across the river & then we could cross. This was thrilling. Almost a rescue operation. We walked along the bank to a point in the river where there were fewer rocks & the water was less turbulent & shallow. Few guys from the opposite bank threw one end of the rope to us & tied the other end to a tree. We secured the rope firmly at our end. Then one by one the guys stepped into the torrent & crossed the river holding the rope. People on the opposite bank pulled them out. Quite a crowd had gathered there by now. My turn to go. I held the rope & stepped into the water. Immediately I felt a jerk putting me off balance. It was not as easy as I thought. The rope was swaying & the current was trying to take you along with it. There was remarkable force in the flow. In addition to that the riverbed was full of loose rocks so there was no firm foothold. I was now in the centre of the river. Just then a huge boulder moved with the force of the water, hit my shin & I almost fell. People at the opposite end shouted, ”whatever happens, don’t leave the rope”. I finally reached them & they pulled me out of the water. Slowly the others followed, everybody crossed the river & they detached the rope. But where were Sid, Vartak & Arvind.

The people are gone; the ropes are gone, now how would the three of them cross. We had to wait for them at the bank so that we could warn them against getting into the water. After about fifteen minutes they arrived on the opposite bank. We shouted & told them what had happened. They looked tense. One of the locals was there. We explained the problem to him. He went looking for help & got with him a group of around ten local boys who were used to the river & its ways. They decided they would form a compact human chain to prevent being swept away. They entered the river forming a chain from our end to the opposite end. Vartak crossed the river holding the chain. This bunch of guys was excited about this rescue & was creating a pandemonium. For them it was fun.

As Sid was wading through the surge he lost his balance and crashed into the water taking the entire human chain with him. I bet the river could not sweep him away. We pulled him out. Finally even Arvind came safely on our side. We thanked the locals for their help. Now it was just a short walk to the temple. We were discussing what an eventful trip this had been. The trek had taken its toll on us. Sid, Arvind, Vartak & Sanjay had torn shoes. The entire sole had come out. Arvind had fallen on the steps while coming down. Even Sid was hurt. My shin was now bruised & swollen. The entire group was battered to extreme. But it was all worthwhile.

We pulled buckets of water from the temple well & took a bath. Collected our bags & bid farewell to the temple. We now had to walk back three hours to Asangaon station on the road we had taken the previous night. Damn. We were already fatigued. But we nudged on. The road, which was dark & ghastly the previous night, now looked beautiful wriggling through bright green stretches of rice fields & little streams. After one hour of walking & singing we saw an empty rickshaw & all seven of us cramped ourselves into it. It dropped us on the highway from where we walked up to the station. We changed our clothes in the station masters cabin. It felt very nice to wear dry clothes. I had seen so much water in one day that I felt like taking the next trip to the deserts of Rajasthan. We took the 4:20 local going towards CST. Just the right time for sabooites. The last twenty-four hours would remain etched in our memories forever as the ultimate wet & wild experience.