(12 March 2005)
The forts in the Raigad and Sudhagad range are not that tough with climb not more than 1000-2000 feet. Mr. Sameer Kelkar, cyclist, marathoner, trekker and also IIT engineer, holds idea of climbing each mountain and each ghat of Sahyadri from Konkan with a climb of at least 2500 feet. For the mountains like Raigad, Rajgad and others which doesn�t have approach from Konkan, has alternate plan of combining cycling and trek. So this time it was Sarasgad and Raigad. We send a small pilot team from IIT on the same route, but they come back from base of Sarasgad.
Plan of Action:
Our plan one of the best on paper. We plan to get to Khopoli by first train. Get down at Khopoli and cycle about 37 kms from Khopoli to Pali by 10 in morning. Then have breakfast at Pali, and then climb Sarasgad and come back to the base by 12 noon. Have our lunch and then set off towards Raigad. We decide to take a non state highway, as shown in the road map of Raigad district, a total cycle of 55 kms to base of village Pachad. Reach Pachad by 6-7 in evening. After dinner climb Raigad, stay at Raigad top for the night. In morning come back to Pachad, cycle back to Mahad, then load our cycles back on bus top and reach Mumbai by evening or night.
Yes, the plan seemed to be quite hectic atleast for me. I had to constantly match with the pace and stamina of Sameer. We started off 12 th morning, catching the first train for Khopoli. For carrying cycle or luggage in train one needs to make a challan from station. However at Dombivli the window which makes challan opens late at 6 am. So I loaded my cycle without any challan. Sameer who took train from Kanjur had already made his challan. At Kalyan was caught by railway official and had to pay off 100 bucks (without receipt). Later came to know from fellows in luggage compartment, that 10-20 rupees would have done, or else one get concession of 60kgs luggage on return ticket. So it was learning for any such next trips.
We reached Khopoli by 0730, and luckily wasn�t caught again. After a little baggage adjustments, loading helmets and querying for the route, we left for Pali. Pali is about 37 kms from Khopoli, and to avoid the heat we decided to skip breakfast and “make hay when the sun doesn�t shine- 6 kms are on Mumbai Pune old highway and just before the express highway, one diversion towards Pali. Climate was good, and we hoped a good cycling day. We covered initial halfway milestone within an hour. A very short break for tea and water, we get back to our road. Though the roads were quite flat and good, they were constantly skirting and several ups and downs (I always enjoy going down!) But it was not late when the sun started showing its effect. Just before Pali, I fell back some 3-4 kms of Sameer, and got severe cramps in my legs. I should have drank little more water. It was hard for me to cycle. I somehow reached Pali, where Sameer was waiting for me. It was 1000 by then.
At Pali, we decided to have breakfast and much required rest to me. No sooner we had breakfast we left for climbing Sarasgad. Parked our cycles at the base house, and took trail leading towards top of Sarasgad. The climb to Sarasgad is not high but quite steep. It took my toll. I was never would able to catch Sameer. Each step for me was hard to take. And for the first time trekking in Sahyadris I lost my mental strength. Asked Sameer to go forward, I took my own pace.
Sarasgad appears to be beautifully built. The steps leading to top are beautifully hidden. There are two levels of construction which can be seen. By the time I reached first level, Sameer was waving his hand from the second level. I decided to rest there and avoid going to the second level. There is a small temple and few water tanks on the top. Sameer came down, joined me and we left again for the base. It was 1145 by the time we reached the base. We took our lunch, it was 1230 by then, so perfect according to our plans, apart from my cramps and bit loss of my stamina.
First setback for us. We referred Atlas maps for roads in Raigad. It clearly showed a small but cycle able road for Pachad, base of Raigad. This was about 55 kms, which we could have done the same day. We asked village people about this road, and none of them said this road exists. The route on which bus goes is about 100 kms from Pali, some 5 kms to the Mumbai Goa national highway, 80 kms to Mahad on the national highway and 24 kms off route from Mahad to Pachad. No way we could have done that on same day, and that too on congested national highway in the scorching heat. I had already exhausted and planning to return from here, it was only Sameer who forced me coming to Raigad. Finally I decided to take time to decide, by the time I may get well. We loaded our cycles on bus to Nagothane, some 10 kms from Pali on Mumbai Goa highway. Here we had to wait till 1430 to get a bus for Mahad. Bad luck this time too, bus was over crowded and we had to stand till Mahad.
Second setback, I didn�t get the necessary rest. I got more exhausted, and by the time we reached Mahad, I could feel the pain. It was 1630 by then I decided to back off, Sameer who showed no signs of fatigue, decided to cycle 24 kms to Pachad according to plans. Wasting no further time, we parted each other. I took 1700 bus from Mahad towards Surat, going via Panvel, Shil-phata and Thane. By 2100 I reached Shil Phata, 10 kms from Dombivli. It was another cycle of about 40-50 minutes for me in traffic to reach Dombivli. By 2200 it was end of my cycling and trek.
I don�t know how I could cycle the last 10 kms. At home, I could feel the pain in my leg again. May be it was strength I got from idea of reaching home.
We had a superb planning. And by the time I completed this report, I got feedback from Sameer who had climbed Raigad, and found the small 55 km road between Pali and Raigad. Sameer cycled back from Pachad to Pali and on his way to Thane on bus.
Sun took the toll, may be March was not the month for such expeditions. Drinking water to avoid de-hyradtion could have made me complete the route. About half liter for every hour is what recommended.
Transport like bus is frequently available on this route, apart from the Pali-Pachad by-pass. Maybe we should have given little more time on the route, completing the route in two days was a bit tough. Little more time on the route would have made it enjoyable. Raigad district have great roads to cycle and great places to see. Last cycle trip to Shrivardhan and Harihareshwar from Alibag has not yet faded from my memory.
Road map to future:
Though the cycling turned bit (very!) hectic for me and not enjoyable, it was a great experience. I was already prepared for the hardships, and it was the reason why I didn�t have my camera with me. I take this cycling experience as indication towards increasing my stamina, physical and mental, which is very much important towards enjoying life! No pain, No Gain! For these gains,
Nothing Else Matters!
Sarasgad to Raigad Cycling
(Written by Sameer Kelkar)
As I sat in the cargo dabba of the Khopoli train (KP1) on Saturday morning, I had mixed feelings.I was glad that I was ultimately going on the route I had planned a long time ago, but also uncertain of the route and whether we could complete it in the heat.Kaushal had joined me at Dombivli and we were headed towards a road between Pali and Raigad which seemingly no one had heard of.It was there on the road map which I had, but then the map also showed several other roads which I knew didnt exist.Soon all the tentativeness was gone as we started cycling from Khopoli at 7.20.We wanted to make as much distance as we could before it became too hot.Taking the left turn just before Madh,we went past the Pali-35 milestone.Cycling in the fresh, early morning was fun and we breezed along to take our first halt 17km from Pali, at 8.30, to take tea.The road was very good with few climbs.mostly it was flat.I reached Pali at 9.30, Kaushal came along 15 minutes later.He had had cramps in his thighs and needed a break.
Since we had had nothing solid since morning, we had a quick breakfast.I asked Kaushal if he would stay back at Pali or climb Sarasgad with me.He decided to give it a try. Sarasgad is a small, elegant fort which looms large behind Pali.The route is very clear � can be called a rajmarga� and climbs up steeply and quickly.The staircase near the top is very smart work and a great piece of mountain architecture.Kaushal waited under a tree just after the staircase while I climbed to the top of the Balekilla after traversing around the cliffs.It had taken around 45 min to climb to the top from Pali.Taking a look around, I got good views of the peaks around, most of which I couldn�t identify.We then hurried back down to reach Pali at the stroke of noon.
We then had an excellent lunch ( our photos just after the lunch show that we relished it ).Making enquiries about the road to Raigad, via Boravali and Channata, we got negative response from several people near the temple.They did�nt know of any such road.Next, we tried at the ST stand, but with same result.One conductor declared that only way to reach Raigad was through Mahad.One other fellow knew of the trek route between Sarasgad and Raigad, but not the road.It was 12.30 now and we had to decide quickly what was to be done.Kaushal was feeling tired and needed rest.Taking this into account, we decided to take a bus to Mahad.Changing the bus at Nagothane on the way, we reached Mahad at 4.15.Here Kaushal tooka Uturn by deciding to go back home that same day.I probably did�nt understand the extent of his tiredness when we had started from Pali.I had thought that 2-3hrs rest would do him good.The heavy rush in the bus did�nt help either.I decided to continue alone to Raigad.
The first 17 of the 24 km from Mahad to Raigad were perfectly flat, and I covered them in just over an hour.It took another hour to do the last 7 from Kolzhar to Pachad.That climb was very steep and my legs were already tired till then.I kept spinning in the first gear of my dear Hero Thunder.Just when I felt I was stretching it too far I saw Pachad.Having snacks at Hotel Deshmukh, I started climbing up Raigad.I knew it wasn�t much of an height after the 1000ft or so I had gained in the ghat from Kolzar to Pachad.According to my expectations I reached Raigad top at 8, in an hour or so, from Pachad.The MTDC resort was full, but luckily a double room was available at the Ropeway guest houses.They also gave me excellent food.A short walk in the beautiful starry night ended the day for me.I lay flat on the bed and fell far asleep.
Early morning I had to make a choice � whether to see Raigad fort and then pedal down to Mahad, or go and explore �the other road� to Raigad from Mangaon and see if it could get me to Pali.Doing both did�nt seem possible as I did�nt know how long that other road will take.I chose to explore that road, I could come and see Raigad sometime again.Speeding down to Pachad in 30mins, I had some quick snacks, packed some food and started pedaling at 7.I had been told that the road to Jijamata Samadhi continues to Mangaon(24km).Soon the road lost tar, and slowly changed from a stony track to a dirt track.It traversed the main Raigad mountain and took a U-turn to come on a mountain which can be seen from the Bombay-Goa highway.The complex nature of the Sahyadris in this part fascinated me.Instead of the �main range and cliffs� which I had seen elsewhere, these mountains were totally different.All the mountains I was crossing now ( including Raigad ) were disjointed from the main range and yet were 3000ft tall.
The road got down into the plains where there was a small village and a much needed tar road.I came to a fork, with one road going to Mangaon, and other to Nizampur ( both were at almost the same distance ).I reached Nizampur around 9.Here I asked for Boravali, and was directed towards a rough looking road.The 12 km (45min) ride to Boravali was mostly flat but rough.Here people told me that the road to Pali is under construction,but cyclable and estimated to be another 25 km.The patch between Boravali and a village called Amboli was horrible.the road was stony, dusty, up and down and it was extremely hot.I kept spinning till a sweet tar road greeted me at Amboli.This patch was particularly bad not only due to the physical condition ( of the roads, the cycle and myself ), but also due to the desertedness.I did�nt cross any vehicle except for a bullock cart in those 2hours between Nizampur and Amboli.I reached Pali breezing through the last 12 km in 45min.
The lunch at Pali was most satisfying experience.I was lucky that my cycle had�nt caused any problems during the entire trip.I was even luckier when I got lift in a tempo from Pali to the Joeshwari link road junction on the Eastern expressway, hardly 2km from IIT, where my sweet dirty room, and 2buckets of hot water awaited me..
mountains are to be climbed��.