Not really a span of time to talk a lot about, but we did manage to scrape some dust of gold from it and trek to Devkund after a cool 150km motorbike ride.
We started from our homes around 5.30am and met each other at Vashi and headed towards Khopoli. The route we were gonna take was Mumbai – Khalapur – Pali – Rawalje – Tata Bhira power plant.
The bike ride
We were on our motorbikes, the road to Khalapur was pretty much flawless ( old Mumbai Pune road ), after that towards Pali was a hit and miss, more of miss-miss-miss-few-occurances-of-hit. A lot of construction work is going since 2-3 years, some stretches of only few 100-500m is concrete while other is work in progress, older tarmac or plain old dirt. From Pali, the road is better as there isn’t much of vehicular traffic towards the TATA Bhira Plant. We reached the location by 10.15am.
We decided not to take a guide and started off by 10.30am. However on our very first fork, we were clueless, luckily a villager was at sight and he helped us through. Further ahead there were at-least 3-4 occasions where we had to move left-right to confirm the path. The Path is more of a trail which at times crosses the water. Whenever that happens, you’re bound to lose it. On our way there was another lonely trekker from Pune whom we tagged along or vice-versa. It took us 12.30pm to reach the destination. The waterfall was a little anti-climatic. The strong flow had reduced to a stream under which one could easily stand although it does fall from quite a height.
After 7-8 months of large inactivity even the simple trek did make us feel tired, especially the last hillock climb. Before heading in the pool we decided to have lunch to prevent cramps swimming through our bodies. The pool water was crisp and cool, it took more than a minute to actually complete submerge ourselves in. After a quick refreshing swim, we were back on our trail by 1.30pm.
At the base, we had a stomach full of anda bhurji, omelette, pav staple and by 4pm the bikes were firing again taking us home.
The destination this time around was a simple one, Sondai fort Trek. Close to the Morbe Lake Dam, near Karjat. This place had its own little lake dam, the Vaverle Lake Dam.
The participants were Mallik’s rock climbing group buddies, Ritz, Farzheen, Sneha, Aditya, Meenaz. Me and Vj were just the climbing pals, the rocks seemed to shun us everytime we tried to overcome them.
Mallik stayed overnite with me, and we picked up Vj early morning from Bandra Station. “Picked up”, yes, this was the 5-star trek of ours, a direct car commute to the base of the village. Others joined us at Kalanagar junction and we headed straight to Dutta Snacks, at the Panvel junction. A lazy lavish hour spent there having Batata Vada, chai, etc. My first trek with Farzheen, and the pit-stop at Dutta snacks made perfect sense.
Another 15 minutes, and we were at the chowk junction. The rains were lashing hard, we thought that it was the first time this region including Mumbai was getting the heavy downpour of the season. At Sion junction, it was just 6.30am and it was already flooding. A left from Chowk/Karjat junction and few more minutes in the now decaying road conditions took us to Borgaon junction where we took a left and then wandered towards the Vaverle village, all in a car!
The country side was green, with every single green hue visible with the unsaturated grays of the hovering clouds simply dousing over the hills. The Sondai fort-hill was hidden behind the fluffy puffs. A small climb on top of what seemed like a wall opened up gasping landscape of a lake being nurtured by small hillocks on each side.
The actual trek itself was a small 1 hr climb, mostly including trail walks. At the top we had some more food, thanks to Vj and Mallik’s bags which contained loads of tasty food and lots of Katchi beer ( छाछ ). At the base, the lake awaited us, I was the first to get into the water body, which welcomed me with warm water. The sight was simply irresistible for others, and soon everybody followed.
Almost half-hour into the lake, and still all hesitated to move out. Mallik had already left. It was Mallik’s call for Maggi that put everybody in dilemma. A hot maggi on a rainy afternoon after a dip in the lake was something that nobody wanted to miss. We had maggi and other restover food in a small hut where another group was playing with an air gun and trying to determine whose pellet went longest in the pool! No wonder we miss out on so many of those shooting medals.
Back at the car, we got into our dry wear, with RD Burman’s songs blasting through. On our way back we halted at a restaurant in Nerul for snacks and then back to our concrete and mortar.
I love my state, Maharashtra. Recently had been to this lovely little trek (only 2 hours for climbing) of Ratangad, BUT … BUT a very long way to the base village, Ratanwadi.
The path to Ratangad was showered with the lovely hills, mountains en-route through one of the loveliest lakes in India, The Bhandardara lake (Wilson Dam). The road winds through the Igatpuri range, first roaming around some of the virgin hills and then through the emperors, starting with Kalsubai. The pinnacle with a small hump at the very top, a very distinguishable feature, keeps overlooking your ride/drive right till you climb Ratangad.
The base of the mountain, Ratanwadi is a small village of not more than 200 dwellers. It has an ancient temple, Amruteshwar along the banks of the Bhandardara lake. The village itself is on the opposite end of the Dam, hence about 1/2 hrs boat ride from the dam or 20km of ride from the Dam. The lake at the village provides with perennial water supply and free natural swimming pool unmatched in its beauty, surrounded with peaks of Kalsubai, Ratangad.
From the top of Ratangad, one can view the adjacent magnificence of the Sahyadri Range, next to Kalsubai are Alang, Madan, Kulang mountains (one of the difficult climbing routes – for guys like us). On the otherside is the intimidating “Ajoba”
With no treks in monsoon, one was due, Rajoba planned for this relatively simple trek to Kothaligad for 11 September 2010. We were to meet @ Dadar’s ticket-window spot around 4.40am and board a train for Karjat around 4.58am.
For the first time all made it on time, I was happy. But Vj was still worried, Hanjoo, the President of my ex-company was yet to make it. Rest all of us, Vj, his wife, Deepak Airy, Vijay Gupta, Anshul Pandey, Digvijay Singh, Amol Rajoba were present. Manas couldn’t make it as he was late to get up. Me and Vj ran to get Hanjoo @ the cab junction, while others moved for the platform. When we reached back @ the platform, the train had already left, and the next one was at 5.37am. So we called Manas and checked if he could still make it. He did without a “cleanup” !
At Karjat station, we grabbed a ST bus for the Ambivali village. This was the base, from where our trek was to start. 1.5hrs ride to Ambivali village with everybody managing to catch hold of some sleep. We started our journey from there to the base of the pinnacle, the Peth village. This was about another 1 hrs walk, climb through a very rocky road.
The climb/walk was more of fun, as everybody with their respective stamina, and passion for photography, or should I say for Orkut-ology or newly Facebook-ology were trailing behind. Hanjoo the eldest of us, was quick. We navigated through most of the shortcuts, cutting straight through winding roads and take you up earlier, but not without extra-climbing. We split in 2 groups (naturally) with quicker and the slower. The quicker moved around the green meadows waiting for their compatriots, while the compatriots reached the Peth village!
At the Peth village we had a few refreshments, a cold drink bottle costing almost 1.5 times that of the MRP! There we hired a kid to take us to the pinnacle, where there were caves. Another 1 hr climb, this time really a climb, no walk! we reached the caves with relatively clean area. The गांववाले must be keeping it clean. But the other parts of the cave were stinking with Bats! so horrible the smell was that we could hardly breathe. We decided that we would have our food/lunch over here. Vj and his wife started pulling out the ‘Wax Stove’ and Maggi noodles, while others helped in getting water, arranging Newspapers to sit. Hanjoo was restless.. didn’t know what to do. The kid, Anil, said there were 100 steps that lead from the cave to the top of the pinnacle. Hanjoo said, “I’ll be back” and started climbing, while I kept asking the kid if there was any place where I could swim or have bath with good clean water. After checking a few cisterns infested with toads, frogs, rats, etc. I dropped my plan. I decided I too must go through the inner-carved steps out into the open. Each step was about 1.5 feet tall, almost reaching the knee, after some panting I was there! Open ! Hanjoo was checking out the beautiful Sahyadri. It wasn’t very windy out there, I decided I need to remove my Tshirt, others who had followed me to the top too copied … few of us without our T-shirts with our President! shirtless! enjoyed the breeze which teased us.
After a small thought of Manas, Hanjoo that beer should’ve been a great companion @ the top, we moved down having our staple trek food of Bread, butter, cheese slices and the Hot Maggi. Around 3 we started our descent from the caves and reached to the base of Peth in 30 mins. From there one the climb down was little boring as it was a rocky road. Around 5 all were there at the base near the bus stop. We waited near a “Hotel” few had tea. I enquired if there was a hand pump or something where we could clean ourselves, A villager said there was a big pond of fresh water, but if we made to it, we would lose our bus ride back to Karjat. Plan dropped! 🙁
The bus arrived around 5.30 pm, and we reached Karjat around 6.40pm. Manas the only guy without a return ticket had to run as there was a Fast train already waiting to release its brakes. We just managed to grab it and reached Dadar around 8.30pm. Home sweet home was by 8.45pm.
Get down at Karjat Station, Central Railway
A ST bus or Tuktuk to the base village of Ambivali, 1.5hrs of ride
There on 1.5 hrs of climb to the pinnacle’s base, Peth village
Approximate Time of Trek: 5-6 hrs from and to the base village of Ambivali
Not always you hit the dirt and get to breeze past cold mountain wind
Not everytime a tired body is nourished by soothing calm water
Not always a tired soul is cheered by nature
But with a comparatively cold January end of 2010, and with the roaring bikes over the silky smooth roads; The above always tends to be true.
Jan 30, 2010
The wait is over, I could barely sleep with all the excitement of filling my Unicorn to the brim for the day’s ride to Bhandardara. Rajo too couldn’t keep with the excitement, he was already @ Khar station while I was having my bath. I took off with my now ‘heavy’ bike with Rajo to Mulund Check naka where I was to meet Danny (Dinesh) and another of his friend.
Danny was late, he was treading through Aarey colony while we were already closing in on Godrej Soaps near Vikhroli. I decided to use the extra time to start off with my Canon PowerShot S3IS. A few snaps of the bike, the riders and the Vikhroli sun rising over the Vikhroli mangroves and we were moving. At the checknaka a few minutes of wait and another biker on a new Red Pulsar 180 came in.
तुम लोग दिनेश के लिए रुके हो क्या?
The biker introduced himself as Rajesh, Dinesh’s friend. We had thought his friend would come in the car accompanying Danny, but bikers can’t be tied down behind those seat belts. Soon BJ-92 was there, Danny’s Turquoise-Green Wagon-R. Next stop was to meet Ankush under Majivda flyover and then head towards the destination of Bhandardara Dam!
Ankush was late, it was almost 9.00am when he made at the junction. Except me and Rajo all were hungry without having any breakfast. So we decided we’d have it on our way and the 2 Pulsars, a Unicorn and a WagonR raced aheads towards Nashik on NH 3 – Mumbai Agra. Soon everybody’s idea was clear, to hit the road hard averaging above 70 kmph. But all of us stayed within visible distance. It was at Kalyan phata near Bhiwandi, we decided that we should have our food by taking a de-tour towards Kalyan.
We found an Udipi Restaurant close by and had our stomachs full with Idlis, Wadas, Upma and Uttapams. The ride for all of us was really fuss free as all our baggage was loaded on the backseat of Danny’s car. From there on, it was just the accelerator, brakes and the clutch working in sync. NH3 is an absolutely fantastic road, negotiating small hills, turns through quite an arid landscape. But the route itself is quite picturesque.
Me and Ankush had adorned our Leather jackets. I was riding around 75kmph few kms ahead of Bhivandi and the overall resultant of the speed and the wind was outdoing the stability of the bike. My jacket was full of air and was fluffed to its extent. Every small gush of wind made me sway, I felt like I was a sail of the bike. At times it was so difficult to move at the speeds that I had to drop the speedometer’s arrow well below 60kmph till the bike was steady enough.
At Shahpur we took a halt for few minutes, took a leak, stretched. And I made sure that I wasn’t carrying along with my jacket. Shoved the piece of leather in Danny’s back side 😛 or his back side of the Car. The speed was much much easier to control then. Moving ahead thru high-class new-age Dhabas with the many times the double-way median-divided road merging into a single one for the other side was being re-laid. We moved on.
Kasara ghat soon was ahead of us, the road now spanned the entire view ahead of us as it slowly started to climb. We took a small halt and had many pictures. There on the most inviting thing for bikers was ahead us, curvy, smooth, grippy roads in the ghats which enabled us speeds upto 50-60kmph. All that I could see myself doing was leaning all the time to adjust the turns and the weight of the bike to help navigate the bends. It was awesome. Ahead I could see Ankush sliding to the either side of the seat like the pros do in MotoGP. As the best things never last long, so did the ghat.
Igatpuri was closing in fast, as he moved towards it, I remembered the road and the small exit for Tringalwadi trek. Everytime me moved closer to Igatpuri we kept a close look on all the milestones and sign-boards to make sure that we don’t miss out on the turn at Ghoti just ahead of Igatpuri. We saw Ghoti (to right) at 3km before which there was an old Toll-naka. Crossing the naka, we saw a right exit where started to change the lanes. Ahead we saw Danny roaring and he missed the turn and went ahead straight! He had missed the turn. We took a right and stopped at a nearby tapri. I called Rajo who was in Danny’s car.
भेंचोड तुमलोग क्या नासिक जाओगे क्या?
अरे !! हमलोग आरहे है
with no shortage of @#$@$! and #$%^@#! other local फोडणी. Soon BJ-92 was standing besides us.
The ride to Bhandardara which was about 20km from Ghoti was not too smooth. First we took a halt @ Ghoti for tea and Parle-G biscuit snack. Then Rajo and Ankush had to withdraw money from the only ATM in the locality. It was Saturday, and the ‘market’ was full! Had to wade through bad traffic to get clear of the village where we met not so inviting roads. A typical State highway with bad patches advancing on the well laid surfaces. The climbing road didn’t help. But somehow we made through the otherwise lovely weather and scenery. It was almost 1.30 when we climbed at the junction to the Bhandardara MTDC resort. Rajo was there with Danny clicking on our entry.
Our first task at hand was to fix up the night’s stay. MTDC was full as expected, but another local closeby ‘lodge’ was cheap and interesting enough to grab our attention. @ Rs. 800 for a room a night with 5 beds was more than a bargain. Next up was food! MTDC Resort had a restaurant, it was 3pm and only thing available was ‘Thali’. Only Rajo had a Non-Veg Thali with कौआ chicken. We wanted some sweet, we ordered 3 dishes of Gulab jamun that we thought we’d share with all. But the sweet-balls were so soft and tender that we ordered more and the whole array of tastes satisfied our tummies’ lust.
It was time for Ankush to sleep and rest since he had come directly from the night shift. But we all decided we could roam around and enjoy the neighbouring landscapes. First stop the Bhandardara dam. Me and Rajo remembered this place where we had enjoyed the August rains during the Hostway Engg. picnic. We crossed the wall and moved along it. The scene on the other side was way too inviting, exceptionally calm waters the 4.00pm’s cool but still warm sun planning to settle in the mountains of Ratangad behind the back waters, everything was perfect for a dip! Rajo shouted to Danny to get the car in the front and get the bags with towels, etc @ the water. A quick change and me and Rajo were swimming in the backwater, I was swimming after more than 2 months or so, Rajo probably more than a half-year since our Andheri Sports complex pool had shutdown due to Mumbai’s water shortage woes. I shouted @ danny to make sure that he didn’t miss out on our snaps while swimming. Danny and Rajesh soon joined us but not for swimming but just till the water was waist high. I then took my chance of snapping these guys in the silhouette with the sun now almost ready with its lovely Orange hues.
All of them dried themselves, Ankush was still laying back on the rock completing his sleep. He too couldn’t miss the lovely sunset. We had decided that it would be better enjoying the sunset over here rather than roaming, finding other places while the sun slid below the earth. Danny was at his best, he was not the one who would miss out on the boat ride. There were 2 boats waiting, one of them a rowing one while the other a motor boat. During the ride, Danny asked one of the two rowers to swap the positions, now Danny was enjoying rowing. We managed to click the final pictures of the diving sun and then returned back to the Room/Hotel.
Danny wanted to enjoy the night around the bonn fire, so @ the hotel Rajo and Dinesh managed to organise a bonn fire near the lake side. For dinner we thought of getting a parcel from the MTDC resort and having it by the bonn fire. The plan didn’t succeed immediately. First the guy who was to manage the bonn fire, said he couldn’t organise for the firewood. So at the restaurant we asked the manager if he had any resources that he could allocate, there was an eager boy standing and rest was easy. However the parcel never came early. It was about 10.15pm when we got the parcel and moved down to the lake’s bank to have food, chaknaa and … Dinesh was hysteric as usual kept saying.
Isn’t it wonderful spending time here in the cold night around the bonn fire and being besides this wonderful lake!?
Raised his glass of pepsi and ‘Cheers’ and he went on :-@
Back @ the room, as we laid the beds, the extra ones had extra amount of dust and smell as well. Dinesh, Rajo and Rajesh decied they’d sleep down while me and Ankush on the bed. The bedsheets were ‘unclean’. That would be the cleanest adjective that I could give. We laid back talking and Danny laughing as loud as he could. One of the adjoining customer actually knocked and said.
भाई सहाब ज़रा आरामसे
We still continued laughing, while Rajo घोडे बेचके सोगया
Back to Mumbai
Jan 31, 2010
It was close to 8.00am when Dinesh rose up with his tall figure and cried
अबे किसीको उठना नही है क्या?
Nobody actually paid any heed, but slowly started rising. I looked out of the window, and there was a lovely mist ahead in the mountains, creating a very distinct layered pattern. This had to come in the camera. We finished our ‘business’, bath and rest other stuff, packed and left the room around 10.30. Checked, cleaned our vehicles and headed back into the market for some नाश्ता. Around 11.am had Misal pav, Vada misal and kanda bhajia at the local restaurant/dhaba in शेंडी (Shendi) or Bhandardara (Bhandardara is alternatively called Shendi).
There on we cross-checked our route to Malshej ghat and back to Mumbai via NH 222. But our first test was to reach NH 222. We were to move straight into the east towards Rajur, take a right for Kotul. As we headed the 11.30-12.00pm sun was not as taxing as we thought. Instead I still remember the cold air gushing inside my T-shirt. The route was partly patched, not excatly a paradise but manageable. The route was a constant hill climb and descend. This is what we had come for. Just 3 bikes and car following in a file on these roads is what etched our memories. But first we had a ghat section of about 3-4 km with very bad roads. At Kotul we checked with the locals for the direction of Malshej ghat and they confirmed that it would be through Oture via Brahmanvadi. The road to Brahamavadi too was a mix of good the bad and the ugly. We reached Brahmanvadi around 12.30pm. Another confirmation of route and little stretching. It was around 15km from here to Oture, the junction of the State Highway and NH 222. Route was on the plains so it was not difficult to ride @ 60kmph. We reached Oture around 1.30pm which was town/village right at NH 222. We decided that we wont’ be having any lunch there as we were yet full from the misal pav. But refreshments couldn’t miss us or vice-versa. We had sugarcane juice and were back burning our engines on the exceptionally smooth NH 222.
Our first stop was Pimplgaon Joga Dam. We moved up into a gorge and looked down below a lovely descending road and right ahead in the very expanse the dam! We halted at Madh for a few snaps and a leak. Just few minutes ahead we saw the famous Khubi Phata, the point where trekkers alight for the famous Konkan Kada and Harishchandragad. For me and Rajo it was something that we knew in the back of our mind. Few weeks earlier we were able to identify it as ‘Khubi Phata’ and not ‘Savarne’ right in the dead of the night around 00.00am. This place always brings back lovely memories of the trek to Harishchandragad. The road now was climbing a little and we soon were in the main Malshej ghat area, we never zoomed our bikes here, rather just rolled it around 40kmph in the topmost gear, Danny even driving with the parking lights on, enjoying the beauty. MTDC resort was on the right. We thought for a moment about lunch but a ‘no’ was vetoed and moved ahead. Next up was the needle point. We parked our vehicles on the highway, while I persuaded Ankush to take the bike to the right end of the needle. The view from the needle was fantastic, with 3 sides blocked by the mountain and the other side a valley. On one end we could see MTDC looking from above. We climbed the needle to make sure we didnt’ miss the shot in the frames.
It was 3.00pm when we finally took off from our last tourist spot. We decided we’d have food at Murbad the next big town/village on our route to Mumbai via Kalyan. The ghat was all descend now, we still continued to descend cruising slowly till we first saw a glimpse of Konkan kada from far away where we took some snaps, and then till Naneghat base. At the base we decided we need to भगाओ our bikes as it was already 3.45 and we were now getting hungry. There on it was averaging 75-80 kmph. Just prior to Murbad me and Anksuh saw some good hotels, but since we had decided to meet @ Murbad bus station on the highway, we moved on. At murbad we didn’t find any good hotels and we rued our opportunity to have food at the hotels before. Then we were moving slowly trying to find a decent dhaba/hotel for our stomachs. But all in-vain. Further me, Ankush and Danny missed Rajesh somewhere and waited for him called him. And he said he already had reached Ulhasnagar thinking that we were ahead of him while we actually waited way behind. He finally met us at Ulhasnagar and we decided to have food at Kalyan as it was starting to get little busy on the streets.
In Kalyan too we couldn’t find a good hotel on our side of the lane, the route towards Mumbai led through the outskirts of Kalyan towards the Bhiwandi-Kalyan phata. Anksuh decided we should have food in the same restaurant where we had our breakfasts the earlier day. At the restaurant, Rawa Dosas, Mysore dosas, uttapam, pav bhaji, grilled sandwiches, etc were ordered everybody pouncing on whatever they could manage, it reminded me of गिद्ध भोजन (Vulture’s dining 😛 ) It was around 6.30 and getting dark when we left. We stopped before the Majivda flyover where Danny, Rajesh and Rajo left via Godbandar road. While me and Anksuh went further ahead where Ankush forked under the Cadbury junction and I raced on the highway towards Mumbai.
As I rolled my bike into the building compound I saw the odometer, the last 3 digits were reading 558. I remembered when I left the earlier morning it showed around 143 or so. It had been a long but an exceptionally beautiful bike ride of about 400km in 2 days. It was much more adventurous than the previous bike ride of Lonavala