Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chanderi Trek - 7 Aug 2011

It had been just a day short for the completion of a week since I’d trekked Harishchandragad, and there I was, ready again with a backpack full of excitement (after all the scolding from my parents, “ghar parivar aahet ki nahi?, nehmi trekking trekking, pudhchya weli ajibaaat jaun nahi denar” J & all the parenting stuff). But that doesn’t bother me. I was ready for the trek, accompanied by my friend Austin & some new trek mates who Nilesh was to join us with.

La Route: The route starts from Vangani, a railway station between Badlapur & Karjat on the central railway line. Form here one has to take a rickshaw up to a village called ‘Chichawli’ for some 6-7kms (make sure to take the phone number of the rickshaw wala for your return journey as there are no autos plying from the village back to the station). The trek starts from this village.

spot the rainbow in the above pic:-)

The plan was to meet together at Vangani station at 7:30am, but I and Austin had some other plan. We decided to get going a day earlier & enjoy the night life, touring here and there (a different thing from your day to day lifeJ). We left our place at 10pm & reached Karjat around 2am. I was surprised to see a group of some 30 youngsters (guys & girls) playing on the station platform. It seemed they were there for a trek (most probably a picnic J looking at their tiny backpacks). After having some kadak chai & kurkureJ, we rested on the platform itself. While Austin slept with some psychedelic music playing in his ears, I managed to shoot some night at the railway platform. We had to return to Vangani to join the rest of the group at around 7am, so we left Karjat with the 6:15am local. I hadn’t had any sleep & was already wondering how I was going to complete the trek. We met the rest of the group comprising of Nupur, Ambika, Bincy, Prasad, Alok, Mahendra, Abhijeet, & my friend Nilesh. We had breakfast of Gujarati Thepla’s” & tea before heading towards Chichawli.

Reaching Chichawli, Nilesh had contact with a local named Ananda, who was going to prepare some kandepohe after we return back. The morning life in a village is a beautiful thing to see. The hens surrounded with all their cute little babies (the chicks are just TOO cuteJ) having some food, the cows & bulls heading towards the fields for grazing, the local dogs barking at us foreigners, the dung cakes welcoming us to break them apartJ and the cute little kids looking at us & smiling innocently as we returned some smiles. That’s what a simple life is.

It was around 9am when we left the village towards Chanderi. Alarming the rest of the surroundings with the Shivaji Maharaj Vandana, we started the trek. For the first few miles the trek goes through some small hills, up & down, straight for some 2-3kms. This is a simple walk through the plantation. But there were not many flowering plants as I’d thought earlier that disappointed me. But walking though the foliage & dirt was funJ.  As we halted on the top of a small hill, we got a chance to see a beautiful Rainbow that had formed amidst the drizzle & sunlight. It was a beautiful sight & I successfully clicked some fast snaps. Moving on we had a new comer on her first trek ever, who was stuck in the basic no no’s of trekking (having a good shoe). Her shoe split open into two, so I and Nilesh tried to wind a piece of thread to it. She somehow managed it for a few miles & then took off both her shoe soles (wise decision thoughJ). We’d walked for some 4 miles where we reached the water streams (which are the actual routeJ). Many a trekkers say of getting lost, but the road is all the way through the water, keep climbing upstream and you reach a v shaped junction that descends into another valley. A left from here goes up to the Chanderi pinnacle.

It hadn’t rained for the past night & we were thankful to the nature gods. If it rained heavily, it was definitely going to hamper the ascend ahead. The huge rocks were wholly covered with moss, and there were just a few places where we could anchor our claws to get some grip. The girls slipped at some patches & continued to do soJ. We had our new comer mate Ambika who slipped of on a huge slippery rock along with another mate. It was a confusing situation for me. At times like these, I get confused, whether to laugh or look into the matterJ. I had a laugh with myself J & tried to reach her. Not a serious fall though, it had all of us worried. Most of the times, incidences like these hamper the group confidence, but thankfully it didn’t happen to us. We continued to climb the rock patches that were pouring in water with force. The rock patch is a much demanding affair in the rainy season as it gets too slippery. But we all managed to make it. Climbing for an hour or so, we had made it through the rocks & into the thick plantation. There are a lot of insects that keep you bothering all the time (be prepared with some repellants). They stick to your body & bite you (not like mosquitoes that fly away when wiped off). These insects troubled me a lot, so I’ve made a decision to carry a forge with me the next time I come here for a trek & watch these insects burn to death in my forge & laugh at themJ.

Now we’d reached the point of diversion, the one which exits into another valley & the left that takes you towards the Chanderi pinnacle. While Austin & Ambika (who were really tired as seen on their facesJ) decided not to come up to the summit & lay down, the rest of the crew continued after a short break. The climb from here is more demanding than what we did before. Firstly, the route is a very narrow piece of land, just enough to place your feet, with valley on both your sides, and secondly, the wind blows here at high speeds that could blow you of in an open windcheater like a parachuteJ. It is preferable for people with less experience to do this part carefully.
    It takes around 20mins to reach the cave. The view from the region around the cave is just beautiful. The grass, waving with the wind, the fog that covers the surroundings, the fresh air that comes in & the feeling of being at on the top of a summit is always an awesome experience. The pinnacle can be reached with rope and harness. It is a technical job that has to be done with greater care.  

Spending some time at this place, we decided to return. Catching up with the rest of the gang, we descended down the same route. It took some 3hrs for us to descend. Reaching the village, we headed to have some good kandepohe & chai prepared for us at Ananda’s place. We changed into some good clothing (out of the dirty, mud covered ones that would prevent us from entering any mode of transportationJ). We returned to Vangani to catch up with the next local to CST.

Not a ‘so exciting’ trek though, but I still had a good time as I like to trek a lot. Trekking is always a good experience, it helps you to know team work more, it helps you to reach your limits, make knew friends, learn more from life. It’s a feeling of freedom, standing on the edge at the top of the mountain & spreading your hands and screaming out loudly as possible is one of the best things to do. Trekking helps you know how beautiful life is and shows you different shades of nature each time you visit a different location. It’s a beautiful feeling ‘that does matter in the end’.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Harishchandragad Trek amidst the heavy monsoon...

Harishchandragad, Maharashtra

After a long long time, almost after a gap of one n a half year, this was my first trek to one of the best mountains to trek in the whole of Maharashtra. Harishchandragad trek is one of the most favorite treks amongst all the fellow trekkers who trek the same mountain, time and time again, even in the harshest weather, just for the love of trekking. As planned, we gathered at kalyan junction. This time I had a friend of mine (Austin) who was a new comer as far as trekking is concerned. I knew there were very few chances of him completing the trek (for a guy who is more than 85kg, this is the first question that arisesJ). We met Nilesh (my fellow friend from the senior college) at the kalyan railway station. I hadn’t seen him for past time, but just as I expected him to look like, he looked the same. A double sized rucksack on his back and thin branches called as feet to support the heavy backpack aboveJ. Greeting & introduction to my friend followed the meet. We then proceeded to the bus station to meet the rest of the gang. Slowly and steadily, the rest of the members arrived. They are classified as J Shraddha, Jhanvi, Pooja, and Nakul & VishalJ. As usual, trekkers tend to make friends very easily & so were I. we had a nice friendly talk that made us ready for the following trek so that we could maintain peace & harmonyJ. It was raining, raining hard, we all were partially wet, packed with heavy weights, and had to do one of the most thrilling & hard feats, it was ‘boarding the Nagar bound ST bus’J. Nilesh managed to grab hold of the whole last seat (even then, he and I were standing for the whole time, u know ‘dildaar aadmi n allJ’ we let the girls rest on the seats, such chivalry of oursJ.  After a long bus journey, we reached ‘Khubi fata’ which is a small village some miles ahead of Malshej Ghat. It was somewhere around 2-3am when we dropped off at this place.

The walk starts now. It was completely dark, even the twinkling stars we hidden behind the thick cluster of the monsoon clouds. The only place lit was the patch of road (I doubt whether it was road or not) that came under the light of two torches, yes; you heard it right, two torches lighting up the so called rubble road for eight peopleJ. We were walking on the road that was built on the boundary of a huge dam for some 3-4kms. After walking for nearly half an hour, or so, we reached the village at the famous Tejas hotelJ. We decided toe take some rest there, not inside but in the ‘veranda’. Spreading some plastic sheets we placed our bedding. All others slept the whole night, except for me. Reason; firstly I did not carry any bedding & I wont sleep amidst the hay & insects hovering around the place, oh! So sophisticated of meJ. I remained awake the whole time like a chaukidaar. Another reason for me being awake was to see the morning glory of the surrounding which I don’t usually get a chance to see. The early morning atmosphere was just too pristine. The freshest shade of green on the farm lands, surrounded with thick fog and the noises of different birds just made the surrounding oh! so beautiful. While all my fellow mates were sleeping tight, I managed to shoot some nature through my camera lens. But of course, there always are factors that hamper your task, and this time it was the rain & the mist that limited my camera. Even though, I managed to click some good photos. So cool of meJ. Later on, everybody woke up, one by one, taking their bodies out of the boredom of sleepJ. The girls, as usual, can’t just see a boy resting, in their presenceJ. After having a good Indian breakfast of kandepohe, we packed our bags, ready for the trek. After getting ready, we alarmed everybody else about our presence with the ‘Shivaji Maharaj Vandana’, that’s what most of the true trekkers do before starting a trek to pay their respect to the king of Maharashtra, the king of the mountains, Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

We started our trek somewhere around 9am. Walking through the rubble road for a mile or so, we reach the point of sudden ascend. Until then, my friend Austin was already breathing above his capacity while the girls leaded the way. In the lead was Jhanvi ben followed by Nilesh & others. Jhanvi ben scaled the mountain just effortlessly, as if she was born to do it, hats off to this young lady. I don’t mean to create a condescending image of her on other girls thoughJ, Shraddha & Pooja were awesome on their feet too J (aaj kal chya pori pan na, poranna maage sodtatJ). We continued to move on through the cuts & curves of the jungle, through the dense plantation & the rubble beneath. I thought the route we scaled through must have been called ‘naali chi vaat’ as it passed on through a past which had water gushing, all the way down, like a ‘nullah’. Walking our way up & down we reached a waterfall (kekdaJ) as my friends called it. It was a nice waterfall with a view of the main waterfall which was across the valley. The main waterfall seemed to look as if it was pouring milk, doodhfallJ. It was the freshest shade of white I’d ever seen & it was pouring out of bounds. All my friends HAD to take a bath under the small waterfall, so did they. My friend Austin, after coming out of the waterfall said, ‘kya fatte massage hua yaar peeth ka’, & it really was much relaxing to feel the pouring water on our back. The force of the falling water freshened up all our senses & nerves, it’s a must try. Whilst all were enjoying the fall, Nilesh managed to bring out his camera out in the rain to click some good photos. We captured some good poses. Moving on, we hadn’t even scaled half the mountain, & there was I, who was searching for mobile phone network. The reason being, I hadn’t informed my family about the extension in the program for another day, so silly of meJ

In almost one and a half hour, we had scaled half the mountain when we reached the rock patch, which was a steep ascend at an angle of nearly 70 degrees, covered with light moss & water, it was the best part of the trek. Rock patches like these is what I really like while trekking. It gives an adrenalin rush through me, that’s worth the attempt & what makes me happy. As an amateur & a first timer, my friend Austin was scared a bit to cover this patch, but slowly and steadily, acquiring all of his courage, he managed to scale this patch, but then got stuck just when he had to take a few steps. He jacked himself at a place which scared me off as I was the only one behind him, to support him. This could have turned a nasty affair if I moved a bit & took him out of his safety, I had to call for more support, so I called out Vishal to support Austin & direct him while I provided him support. Huh! Finally, he made it through the rock patch. That was one of the most adventurous he did, he saidJ. Moving on, we again had to walk through the ups & downs through the thick plantation. Walking for a sum total of nearly 3 and half hours, we reached the top of the mountain at the caves. While trekking the entire way up, we couldn’t see any more than some 10 to 20 feet of land, the thick cover of fog around us decreased our visibility. So we decided to head straight away to the caves for shelter. 

It was the starting of the month of Shravan (gatari day), and the place was already crowded with different people (I doubt to call them trekkers), all of them moving in their underwear, I wonder whyJ??  Anyways, Nilesh acquired a corner for our gang to rest upon. Making all the necessary arrangements, we decided to head towards ‘Konkan Kada’. So we proceeded towards it. To our surprise, all of it was covered in thick fog, top to bottom I guessJ, but we waited for some time to see if the nature gods show pity on us & show us glimpses of the deep valley beneath us. We didn’t get any view of it though, but still managed to get some good photos. After some mazak masti we returned to base (the cavesJ)

It was eve time and we were having some hot tea as we settled inside the cave. As the darkness creeped in, we started to get our bedding ready after having dinner. The later was followed by the sooooo scary stories by Nilesh.  We chit chatted for nearly an hour or more sharing our experiences (disturbing all others J) & slept with the night on the hard rock surface. Everybody had wrapped themselves in their bedding except me.  I didn’t have any, so I decided to enjoy the chilling cold surroundingJ. Waking up early in the morning, I unpacked my camera & went on exploring the surroundings amidst the heavy rain. I reached up to the temple area which was already covered with thick fog. The place was so beautiful, everything just matched perfectly, the ruins, the temple, the greenery & the fog. All of it was just perfectly picturesque. Returning base, I wasn’t surprised to see everyone sleeping tight.  Everyone else woke up as they wished. Huh! Such boredom till thenJ. It was wake up time, and there was Shraddha waking the rest of the mates out of sleepJ (these girls I tell you, just cant be happy looking at a boy having some restJ). It was good morning for all and we had hot tea ready for us along with some garama garam kandepohe . The smart girls in our group got some maggi noodles with them & got them prepared from Badri, the person who cooks food for fellow trekkers there. We feasted up on all that we had. Getting ready for the descent, we explored the surrounding temple complex.

A brief history about this mountain as told to me by Nilesh is that, this place was ruled by a king named Harishchandra (not the one we usually hear of). He built this temple dedicated to the lord Shiva followed by a ShivLing near a small waterfall beside the temple. A small citadel at the top of the mountain was named after his wife Taramati. Another mountain in the same range, a few miles away was named after his son Rohidas. Never ever in the history of this mountain did any battle take place here. The reason being the mountain itself situated at a height tough to scale for a battle. 

We then resumed our journey back, the same way. It took us some 3 and a half hour. We had to stop at each and every waterfall for our friend Pooja who never missed a chance to get herself drenched in the water. It seemed as if she came for the trek just for the joy of getting herself wet, this girl I tell youJ. But that’s the point, what is the meaning of trekking at such a beautiful place if you don’t enjoy it, hats of to this young lady. She always made a point to take a dip in each & every stream flowing with chilling waterJ

Small or big, we enjoyed all of it, climbing the rock surface, singing songs with the chorus, time & time again, getting ourselves massaged under the heavily pouring waterfall, getting drenched in the chilling streams of water & cracking jokes on each other right from the start till the end. What a wonderful experience. We returned to the place where we had earlier stayed (the famous hotel Tejas) to have food. Having some good veg food (just because of unavailability of chickenL) we continued our jokes & chatting. Giving a goodbye to the place we started our journey back towards the highway with a plan to return back, again, just for the joy of trekking one of the best places in Maharashtra, ‘Harishchandragad’.

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