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.
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.
- Get a train for Kalyan (Central Line) from Dadar (or where ever you are)
- 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)
- Alight at Madh Bandh, make sure you let few commuters know where you are going. Get down near Gajanan’s Tapari.
- Take the road towards the Bandh, which is about 4 km walk to the base village of Khireshwar