Today morning a friend’s messenger status said “Great pleasure of doing thing what others thought you can’t do”
Well, quite true. I always enjoyed pleasure taking challenges. Challenge had been my motivation many times. This challenge need not be posed by a real person always. Often its the challenging task itself, as if it is laughing at you and telling that you can’t handle me. A mathematics problem stands in front of your eyes and mocks at you. Or a difficult client consulting assignment which cannot be handled using known wisdom. Its the pleasure for me cracking such tasks, mathematical problems or assignments.
Since childhood, I have never cared to anything what others had to say about me. Thanks to my father who always taught me self confidence. Though I had never given anyone chance, that others would tell me that I can not do something; be it academically or otherwise. Hence for me doing things what others thought you can’t do, did not mean real pleasure. The greater pleasure lies in doing what you thought you can’t do.
In 1997 after my SSC exam, I went to my first trek in life with few friends who had done some trekking earlier. I had always wanted to go trekking. This trek was to fort of Raigad, once captial of Ch. Shivaji. Trek was very simple that time, simplest way was to climb some 1000 steps. There is one section of fort known as Takmak point. This point has a steep cliff/ mountain face and winds are quite strong around this place. I remember I could not go near to the cliff. I was sitting some 50 meters away from the cliff waiting for my friends who had great time near the cliff. I was, infact I am afraid of heights. I realised I can’t trek. In 2000, I got another chance. I applied for month long Basic Mountaineering Course in Manali. First few days it was like torture I was doing to my own body. They taught us many things including rock climbing, rapelling, basic survival techniques, etc. Only at the end of few weeks I started enjoying it. I was making more progress since then, and at the end of course I felt proud of myself!
Since then I have done a number of treks. Trekking has taught me strength of mind over body many times. There were treks where I thought I should run away (1, 2). I cant continue any long. Why am I trekking? People had also asked us what is the point of giving so much pain to the body to get to the top of mountain. Most of time we start our trek, we look at the mountain and think, this mountain is unclimbable (3). I thought I wont be able to climb this, and these are the climbs which I enjoyed the most. Most pleasure came at the end of trek which I thought I should run away.
Another fear I tried to overcome is blood. I faint on seeing blood or on slightest of injury. I have tried hard to overcome this thing, but however brave I am, I have fainted number of times. Often it happens at subconscious level. I have tried to find some medical reasons for it. I believe it is some syndrome, where when I see blood or injury, my blood vessels contract. This contraction leads to reduced blood flow to my brain, which causes me to faint. After a history of such fainting cases, it has established as a fear. I have tried to deal with this through blood donation. First time I donated blood, I fainted. But every time I kept donating blood. I had been donating blood 4 times a year, till quite recently (14 Nov, 14 Feb, 14 May, 14 Aug). Everytime I donated blood I had a pleasure, not because I was doing some philanthropic task, but I defeated myself.
It was the same pleasure when I completed my first half marathon. I always wanted to run a marathon. In 2000 I had run 7 kms for my hostel. I was on bed for few days after that. I told to myself running is not for you. But people around me, Ravikanth, Sameer and Satsang inspired me and kept my dream alive. After 9 years, I reached half way of my dream. I still think, full marathon – 42 kms, is a task I might not acheive. But I am ready to wait another 9 years to disprove myself, because now I know the amount of training I would need to complete full marathon.
If you had to fail, it would be because of none other but you. We create mental blocks for ourselves which act as hurdles. Challenge lies at overcoming them, going at a level further; there is more pleasure and life on the edge. Greater pleasure lies in doing what you think you can not do.
Don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits (-anon)
(1) read Adi Kailash,
(2) read Cycling – Harihareshwar/Srivardhan
(3) read Durg-Dhakoba descent via Kuthedar Vat
This year I could hardly do any treks. Had been busy with the course and also not many trekking opportunities near XLRI and Jamshedpur. I had trekked to Dalma in October and since then did not do any trek. Had decided to do some trek during my internship period.
However Mumbai is terribly hot these days, so could not decide upon location. Finally it came to going back to Harishchandragad. Vinay was also waiting for a trek. We decided to a night trek to Harishchandragad. This would have been my fifth time to Harishchandragad. Took 9 pm bus from Kalyan to Khubi Phata. It was almost midnight when we reached there. We slept in the school veranda at Khireshwar � the base village and decided to start early, instead of doing part section at night.
We started early. Pre Monsoon atmosphere had started developing, which helped us avoid summer heat. We almost completed our trek through dense fog and cold winds, unlikely weather in mid may. Early trek left us enough time to stay on the fort and Do NOTHING! Spent entire day in the cave in Khireshwar temple doing nothing but laying back and resting. We decided to trek back via different route this time � getting down at Pachnai. We got up at 4 to trek in dark and catch 6 am bus from Pachnai. But fog was so dense that we couldn�t at distance of couple of feet. We went back sleep and trekked to Pachnai � fairly simple route � in daylight.
Journey back home from Pachnai was however very tiring. We had to wait till 11 am to get the next bus. It had become terribly hot by then. Bus took us Rajur, a taluka place in Ahmednagar district. From here we shared a Jeep to Kasara. Local train from Kasara took us back home. We started 8 in the morning and reached home by 6 in the evening!
In the end, good trek after a long time. I realized in this trek amount of weight added in past year and how rusty body has been!
Vinay had been busy with his camera. His photos at
It was a cold and misty morning. One could hear the sound of water falling from the Wilson dam. Diesel engine of the boat was pumping in rhythm and throwing puffs of smoke. It seemed to be a dream, with mountains all around moving in a boat in a lake with a fog layer over it. The boat started slowly advancing towards Ratanwadi from the Shendi village at the banks of Bhandardara lake. This was indeed a beautiful start to our Ratangad to Harishchandragad trek!We had started the earlier night from Thane taking a bus to Igatpuri and early morning bus from there to Bhandardara. It would have been a long trek, so had to start early. After a hour in boat ride we land at the base of Ratangad fort near Ratanwadi village. I had brief memories of this place, list time I had visited couple of years ago. It didn�t seem a long time for me, with memories of the solo trek still fresh.
Ancient temple at Ratangad is worth watching. It is unique example of the sculpture in this region. Some of sculptures showed stories of Ramayan and other deities. We didn�t waste much time as we had long way to go. We marched our way along the route to Ratangad. At one time, route branches. One takes us to ladders on the rock face of Ratangad, while other takes us towards Harishchandragad. Taking our brunch here, we started hunting for way in the forest towards Katrabai pass. Crossing the pass lead us to a small hamlet surrounded by Ajoba, Katrabai and Ghanchakkar peaks. It had been a long day, we reached Kumshet just before sunset and took shelter in the village school. Cooking our dinner, we rested for a long day ahead!
A good nights sleep had refreshed and charged us for the day ahead. We made Egg Bhurji for our breakfast and started towards Harishchandragad. The route passes through couple of hamlets along Mula river and then to Pachnai village from where the climb for Harishchandragad starts. This was again a 6-7 hours of trek. The climb to Harishchandragad via Pachnai is special during the rains, as route intersects a number of waterfalls. Pachnai would have been a paradise during rains!
This had been my fourth visit to Harishchandragad and things have been changing here. Number of people visiting this place had made this place filthy and less attractive for stay. Finding shelter in caves was difficult, however we managed that. Enjoyed making food at Harishchandragad, Baingan Bharta and Rice combination was excellent!
We had a very lazy start on next day. We had planned to get down by the difficult Junnar Darwaja route, however starting at 11 in afternoon, we moved from Taramati peak to Balekilla and decidied to get down by regular Tolar Khind route to be in time. It still took us 6 hours to reach the highway. After sunset we had to wait a long for bus, thanks to the truck driver who took us to Murbad. A bus from Murbad to Kalyan was end of our long trek!
Trekking after a long time was so refreshing and with all new friends. I knew only Nitin More who happened to be from Bhramanti trek group. My camera was also happy having been clicked after long 6 months !!
How to reach Bhandardara:
1. Buses are available for Bhandardara from Igatpuri and Ghoti. One can take overnight bus to Igatpuri and catch the first bus (0515 hrs) to Pune via Bhandardara.
2. Alternately, one can take local train from Mumbai to Kasara. Jeeps or buses going towards Akole or Rajur would drop you at Bhandardara phata / Waranghushe, from here one can take local jeep or vehicle to Bhandardara or Shendi.
How to reach Ratanwadi:
1. Boats are available from Shendi (not frequent) to Ratanwadi. It takes an hour from Shendi to reach Ratanwadi.
2. Alternately, one can walk 4 kms from Shendi to place called Morshood. From here, small boats can take you across the lake to nearest bank of Ratanwadi.
How to reach Kumshet from Ratangad via Katrabai pass:
On the way from Ratanwadi to Ratangad, we reach a junction from where, left would lead to the ladders of ratangad, while straight path would take you towards Katrabai pass. From the junction, one walk ahead. The route passes below the Agni baan Pinnacle and then one has to take first right in the woods. One can see sign H in between. Little ahead one route goes back in left, but one takes the route going right with mountain on right side. The route will climb up to the Katarbai pass. At the pass, route straight down would lead to Kumshet. Path right takes you to small temple of Katrabai, while route left traverse along the ridge to Ghanchakkar.
How to reach Kumshet to Pachnai:
One can take the broad path ahead of the school in Kumshet and follow the path towards left little ahead. After walking ahead, there are trails going on left towards Rajur. One needs to walk towards the right towards the Mula river. There is a plateau where you can see Mula river down on right. One gets down to the place where 3 streams meet. We walk along the river banks with river on right. The river takes a left turn, we follow the river till a small village. On the top of hillock across the bank is the Patechi Vadi. A broad path from this village would take you straight to Pachnai. A well defined route from Pachnai can take you straight to Harishchandragad.
King of Himalayan Treks: Kalindi Khal Pass Expedition
(Written by Sameer Kelkar)
16 June 2006 : 5950metres, 19500feet above sea level, dividing the watersheds of the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda river systems, discovered by Shipton and Tilman in 1934 (though legend exists of folk knowing the route from ages). We knew we were in for the trek of all treks! Flying from Aurangabad to Delhi in the morning, we looked at the world we would be leaving behind … no phones, no habitation for 12 days. The trek which bordered an expedition would test our endurance, strength and more importantly decision making. Reaching Rishikesh in the evening around 8, we prepared to leave for Uttarkashi next morning. The porter at the GMVN hotel innocently replied to our query for a good restaurant �Khana toh kahi bhi accha hee milega sir, koi ganda khana kyun dega ?�- We knew we had crossed the border between Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal.
17 June 2006 : We picked up the wrong bus to get to Uttarkashi. Instead of the 2*2 luxury bus we thought we would use, we were in a rickety local bus, our sacks on the top, and the 2 of us forcing space inside. After an hour of standing in a Bombay local train like situation, we finally got seats towards the end of the bus at Chamba. Having covered the 140 km to Uttarkashi on bicycle in Diwali time, we expected to reach in 4-5 hours. However, because of the Tehri Dam backwaters, the route has been diverted. The new road is not only dusty, rough, but also 30 km longer, adding atleast a couple of hours to the journey. Villages between Old Tehri and Chinyali Saur are all submerged due to this giant 2400MW of a dam. We had a lot of interesting talk with the local people. They were quite divided on the Tehri dam issue. Then there was a chap from California, a nurse, traveling in the Himalaya for 6 months. He enraged Kaka with his talk! Kaka could only warn me to be careful at Berkeley. We finally reached Uttarkashi at 2.
We had left all the trek arrangements to Vishnu. These we now checked on reaching his office at Uttarkashi (Snow Spider Expeditions). We also had to go to the district magistrate�s office for signing some documents, permits for the trek. This done we started on the journey to Harsil. Vishnu accompanied us to this scenic resort high in the Bhagirathi valley. Located 2600m above sea level, and only 25 km before Gangotri, it boasts of some of the best views in the valley. The river basin is very broad in this part, and the Ganges leaves behind a trail of spectacular white sand beaches.
18 June 2006 : After a quick drive to Gangotri, we were ready to get started on the trek. Vishnu and Kaka prayed at the Gangotri temple for success, and we were looking back at the Gangotri temple, bidding farewell to the shrine at 11.30. The route is very broad till Chirbasa. The valley gets narrower and large cliffs loom over the track. Snow capped peaks like Mandya lie on the true left of the valley. Chirbasa, at an altitude of 3600m, brings the first views of the Bhagirathi peaks. The cluster of Chir trees justify the name given to the place. A number of dhabas provide shelter and food to pilgrims here. We ate our lunch of Maggi at one such dhaba, and proceeded on the track which slowly climbed up along the valley. 5 km onward, at an altitude of 3800m, is Bhojbasa. Named so thanks to a cluster of Bhojpatra trees, it can be called the last point of civilization in the Bhagirathi valley. There is a GMVN hotel, a meteorology centre, and Lal Baba’s ashram. The latter 2 are occupied all through the year. Light snowfall welcomed us at the dhabas above Bhojbasa, and we responded quickly by resorting to the invigorating chai. I hate the very taste of tea and coffee. But in Himalayas it is allright! In fact it is a must! Since the weather was going bad we needed to take shelter quickly. Our porters hadn’t arrived with the luggage yet. So we entered the GMVN hotel. The rooms had been destroyed by snow storms a couple of years back, so we stayed in the dorm style tent which they provided. Our porters finally came at 7.30 in evening. They were accommodated in the dhabas.
The first night of the trek brought sub zero temperatures. We began to doubt if this was the right season to do this trek. I had heard from many groups having failed to reach Kalindi in July, August and September. It made me wonder what the right season to attempt a crossing was. Vishnu was an experienced guide, having led the trek successfully around 15-20 times in the last 10 years. He assured us that the weather was with us.
19 June 2006 : Excellent views of Bhagirathi peaks in the morning light with Shivling peeping from behind a ridge set the start of the climb to Gaumukh. The broad track leads as far as 1 km before Gaumukh, where there is a series of dhabas. A large army camp had also been established here. The jawans were undergoing training in snowcraft on the Gaumukh glacier. We later saw them practicing climbing in the ice walls in the glacier. The trail becomes narrower as one comes close to the glacier and the last few steps are in moraine. The first sight of the glacier is at Gaumukh itself, where the Ganges starts its journey from a cave under a 30 foot ice wall at the head of the glacier. Some sadhus were bathing in the icy cold waters. Though I am an atheist, I appreciate the power religion has over people. I had come to this altitude hiking such a distance for my love of the mountains. For Hindu devotees it is religion. They are least concerned with the Bhagirathi peaks being clearly visible, or listening to accounts of people who have attempted the various peaks in the region. The sadhu doesn’t give a damn to whether he is at 3890m or not. The fact that he is at Gaumukh, and is watching Ganga Maa start its journey, overwhelms him of anything and everything else.
Gaumukh has been receding for many years. It once existed at Gangotri, but with global warming the glacier has been going back. Vishnu himself had seen it 100-150 feet ahead of its current position. We had also met old sadhus in Bhojbasa who had lived by the glacier there 50 years ago!
The route climbs steeply above Gaumukh, ascending the glacier from its true right. Vishnu led the walk through the rocks, mud and ice. In 30 minutes we were at the top of the glacier, standing over tonnes and tonnes of ice, snow, water covered with rocks and mud. The chaos of a glacier is simply indescribable. One thinks of glaciers as rivers of snow, and imagines them to be the flat snowfields gently rolling down valleys and mountains. They are much more than that. Glaciers have ridges, valleys, ice walls, ponds, moraines, crevices and are infinitely complicated. This was our first glacier crossing of the trek and we were in a state of awe throughout the route. It took a full hour to get across the chaos! Stones piled on top of each other (called a cairn) mark the route. This path keeps changing with the changes in the glacier. Every year a slightly different route is established to go across.
At the sides of the valley the glacier ends and the mountain faces begin. This region is extremely unstable, steep and what is worse, needs to be crossed in order to get onto the glacier or off it. Tapovan, at an altitude of 4450m, is situated above the glacier. The climb from the glacier to this meadow is extremely steep, and sometimes slippery. The Amar Ganga flows very close to the route, draining herself into the glacier. We climbed up fairly fast, reaching the campsite at 1. This climb would have been fairly tricky had the weather gone bad. However we had been blessed with sun shine.
Tapovan lies under the shadow of giant peaks such as Meru Parwat and Shivling, which we got very good views of now. Infact the base camp for both the peaks is established at Tapovan. Some features of Shivling make it resemble a Ganesh idol. The rock solid faces from all sides make it one of the most technically challenging peaks to climb. I was surprised to hear that it had been climbed from the face by a foreign team. A mini-Shivling can also be seen on one of its ridges. When Vishnu later told about the German team which had climbed the technically challenging Meru and paraglided down I was astounded. I could also appreciate the difficulty the Indian team would have faced climbing the Bhagirathi wall, which was also clearly visible.
The campsite at Tapovan is well protected by ridges from all sides. The tents were pitched and we rested. Both Kaka and I were having a headache. We planned to take a walk out in the evening, but failed to do so because of snowfall. We realized that this trend would follow us throughout the trek. Not hungry because of the sick feeling and headache, we forced ourselves to dinner, and spent an uncomfortable night. Living on altitude is something tricky. The best way to deal with the low air pressure and oxygen is doing all movements slowly, trying to breathe from the nose rather than gasping for air. I also realized we had climbed very fast that day. Particularly the last climb to Tapovan could have been done much slowly. Resolving to use this tip the next day, I tried to get some sleep.
20 June 2006 : Bed tea is the medicine required to get a tired trekker out of his sleeping bag. For a sick and tired trekker 2 cups of the medicine are required! A walk around the campsite and I felt a little stronger. Kaka was quite all right. In fact he was nicely chatting to the Mata ji at Tapovan. 2 sadhus and a Mata ji live at Tapovan most of the year. The forest department had tried to evacuate them by destroying their shelters, but they resisted moving away from what they consider their home. Mata ji had come to stay with her husband 16 years ago. She decided not to leave the place after his death and now stays with a helper. She had many a story to tell. The place is covered with 5-8 feet snow during winter, and one has to almost hibernate during that season. Her shelter was under a stone cave, with the front side constructed of wood and tin.
Bidding farewell to this wonderful lady, we left on the track to Nandanvan. A narrow path went along the valley side for a couple of km. Vishnu then started searching for a place to descent on to the glacier. The path continued on to Khada Patthar and Sunderban. There was earlier a route continuing in the valley adjacent to Kedar dome to Kedarnath, but no one has attempted it for several years now because of landslides. This place gave a grand view of the Gaumukh glacier. The snow river is very long, and extends right upto Chaukhamba peak, 25 km up the valley from Gaumukh. Right across the valley were the Raktavarna and the Sita glaciers. Chakram Hikers had attempted a peak before in the Raktavarna valley (named so because of a red coloured weed growing there). The Sita glacier valley would lead us to Kalindi Khal pass. Vishnu showed us the site of Nandanvan, right at the base of Bhagirathi peak in the Sita valley.
A scree and mud slope led down to the glacier. The glacier crossing again involved climbing various domes, traversing ridges and negotiating around the ice walls. Cairns marked the route and it took a couple of hours to reach the base of the climb to Nandanvan. We were proceeding fairly slowly, giving our body’s time to acclimatize to the altitude. This also gave us time to appreciate the ice tables and bridges in the glacier. The final climb was not as steep as the Tapovan climb and we relaxed under the sun in the Nandanvan campsite (4340m) at 1. The porters soon arrived with the camping gear and we got our afternoon nap inside the tent.
Vishnu woke us in the evening. Peeping out of the tent I got the sight of my life. Kaka asked what was outside and I could barely utter “Oh shit�� and “too much�� as I saw Shivling rising out of the clouds. Kedar Dome also stood tall amongst the clouds and the sight is beyond all description of beauty. This was Himalayas at their very best …. Simply majestic!
This feeling of elation coupled with a sense of being well acclimatized made my evening particularly bright. A long walk around the campsite, exploring the shepherd shelters around gave a big appetite followed by an excellent sleep.
21 June 2006 : First rays of the sun shining brightly on Shivling and Kedar Dome, with Bhagirathi looming over the campsite was good. But we also had some bad news. One of the porters was down with AMS. He had to be taken down to Gaumukh. Govind and Akhilesh volunteered to do the task. I was afraid they would have a very long day.
The trek to Vasuki Tal took 4 hours. We continued on a long ridge descending from the Bhagirathi range. This ridge walk was 3-4 km long and gently climbing. It separated the Bhagirathi mountains from the Sita glacier, forming a natural defense for a series of campsites, including Nandanvan. The highest of these campsites is the base for one of the Bhagirathi peaks. Like all ridge walks, this also gives excellent views in all directions. The vast mass of Sita glacier lying below, making grinding noise as rocks fell into and around the glacier, and the Kala Pahad ridge beyond. This mountain range had struck me even on the camp at Tapovan. It seems to be totally different from the other peaks, made of a dark rock and scree. Not very high, but definitely very challenging. Infact most of its peaks have remained unascended. Shivling and Kedar dome slowly disappeared from view as we went deeper into the valley.
The ridge ends in scree slopes of the Bhagirathi peak. Here we had to cross the Bhagirathi glacier. The descent to the glacier was extremely steep, and slippery. Crossing the glacier was something we had gotten used to now. However the climb of a ridge on the other side seemed tricky. A yellow rope had been fixed to aid that climb by the Bengali team attempting Satopanth peak. Kaka was doubtful if he would be able to do this portion. Vishnu and I convinced him to give it a try. Slowly we moved across the glacier.
Our porters had caught up with us by now. They used to start almost an hour after we did after packing up the campsite. With heavy loads on their back they walked much faster than us (we did the sections quite quickly, taking around 4-5 hours on all days when other groups had taken 7-8 hours). They got into a nice rhythm by taking loads on their backs. Here they descended the scree slopes very comfortably. Their confidence, strength and agility was admirable. Most of them were my age or younger, and had been on this trek once or twice before.
The climb with the fixed rope was much simpler than what it looked from across the glacier. There was some danger from rockfall in the region so we hurriedly scrambled up the ridge. Vishnu had earlier told me “Sir aap Vasuki Tal dekhenge to sab thakan door ho jayegi�� . I only realized how true that was! A small walk down brought us to the campsite by the waters. The lake was very shallow (about a foot or two at most), and spread across a nice little plain under Vasuki Parbat. The water was not very cold for the altitude of 5000m. Across the lake there were 2 camps – both Bengali teams attempting Satopanth peak. One of them had just succeeded in their quest. The other was starting the attempt. We congratulated the successful team and wished All the Best to the other team.
It was sunny in the afternoon and I settled down on a rock reading “The Traveller�� . The next day was going to be rest and all of us relaxed the evening. Govind and Vishnu came in late at 7. After helping their friend get to Gaumukh and hire a horse, they had come back to Nandanvan, picked up their load and hiked to Vasuki. They got a very well deserved soup, and rest!
22 June 2006 : We woke up lazily to watch the Bengali team depart for the Advanced Base Camp. The other team made preparations to go back. We decided to proceed for some distance on our route to acclimatize. After negotiating around a landslide ridge after Vasuki, we walked on a long ridge for some distance, until we could see Khada Patthar (our campsite for the next day). It looked quite near but the Satopanth glacier lay in between. I asked Vishnu about how much we were walking everyday. It was taking about 4-5 hours to do all the sections, but the distance was varying. From Gangotri to Bhojbasa was 14 km, and then to Tapovan was 9 km, then Nandanvan was 7 km, and the Nandanvan-Vasuki Tal leg had been 6 km. Walking on the moraine and glacier was hard work. Also the altitude made it harder.
Vasuki Parbat looked down upon our campsite. This is another very difficult and technical peak to climb. It has not even been attempted for many years now. 2 of our porters would be going back with excess load. We decided to carry only one 4 man tent and the kitchen tent, other tents would go back. Also the load of foodstuff and fuel was gradually decreasing.
I spent the afternoon finishing �The Traveller� . It snowed in the evening and we stayed inside most of the time. This typical pattern of weather was well suited for our planning. We could finish off the walking till 1-1.30 and didn�t mind if it rained or snowed a little in the evenings. What we needed was bright sunshine when we walked.
23 June 2006 : The route to Khada Patthar followed the long ridge we had seen before. This walk gave great views of the Sita glacier and the chaos within. We were to camp twice on the glacier. Vishnu had assured us that the campsites were very safe. I shuddered at the idea of having to sleep amidst the debris lying on the glacier, not knowing when some rocks may fall, some ice block may shift. The glacier kept making strange sounds, and it did feel weird to have to sleep on top of a sleeping giant.
The ridge ended on top of the Satopanth glacier. The descent was extremely slippery, with lots of loose mud and stones. Our first views of Satopanth peak left us awestruck. The peak was a perfect trapezium, the final ascent covered in tonnes and tonnes of snow. Vishnu pointed to us the ABC of the expedition teams on the Satopanth glacier. The route of ascending the peak looked impossible. There was a snow covered ridge called the �Blade� . This was the toughest part of the climb. Ropes had to be fixed on either side of the Blade, and climbers straddled the ridge with support from both sides. Scary!
A long climb up on the other side of the glacier brought us to a ridge overlooking Khada Patthar campsite. Vishnu was glad to see a stream at the campsite. We had had some problems at Nandanvan where the porters had to fetch water 1 km away from the camp. We didn�t expect to see a stream at Khada Patthar but there it was. The campsite (5500m) itself was quite small. It was in a gully protected from the cold winds from Sita glacier by a ridge. It would be our 6th night in sub zero temperatures. We were now used to shaking off the snow and frost off the tent when asleep! It had to be removed to keep the tent from caving in, and keep the outer separated from the inner of the tent.
Meanwhile my right knee was not taking all the jumping around boulders very well. I had suffered an injury condition called Runners knee and rested for 3 months from December to February. Then a very slow rebuilding program with swim running, cycling and physiotherapy. I had missed a lot of trekking and mountain biking in those months. Now I had Stok Kangri lined up after this trip. The doctor had given his okay for trekking, but I knew that jumping around from rock to rock, twisting the knee at every step on loose mud and scree, was outright abuse of the knee. I was using McKinley anti shock walking sticks to ease the pressure on the feet. My arms had started to pain with the load, but I prayed that my knees pulled it through. I confess that I was seriously contemplating going back to Vasuki Tal from Khada Patthar. The logic was simple � if the knee broke down later on in the trek it would become very difficult to get me back. The problem was that I knew Kaka would not continue onward without me. We would all have to turn back. The weather was going with us, and this was a golden window to complete the trek in. I couldn�t let it go. I made up my mind that this trek was worth completing, even if it meant that my knee would probably be all screwed up and I would get another 3 months rest!
24 June 2006 : Another 3 days to go for crossing the pass … if everything went right. We climbed the ridge overlooking the Sita glacier. The Kalindi Base camp could be seen in the distance. The glacier split near its head. We would be following the branch turning leftward. The rightward branch also used to lead to a pass to the Arwa valley, but the route was fairly technical with ice walls, innumerable crevices and danger from avalanches. Good. A small scree descent (we were used to getting on and off a glacier by now) and we began traversing the Sita glacier. Passing though a region with lots of ice tables and streams (walking on the ice felt much better than the loose rocks), we climbed up a ridge. The key to moving quickly through a glacier is getting on to the right ridge. A long ridge can get you though quickly. Trying to head straight in a direction makes one go up and down innumerable humps. That is very tiresome and time consuming at 5500m. Vishnu led us skillfully through the chaos, always leaving a pile of stones for the porters to follow.
The ridge walk itself had lots of views of the glacier. Ice walls, streams, lakes … and caves. The giant cave we saw that day on the Sita glacier was big enough for a locomotive to go in. In shape it was similar to any of the tunnels in the Khandala ghat. The Gothic arch of ice supporting the load of tonnes of snow, ice and rock. A pool of chilled water formed under the arch, and I imagined a sadhu performing the Mayurasun in the vicinity! It reminded me that most of the structures we humans build are inspired directly from nature. It is not a coincidence that we see the Gothic arch such as this at 5500m. Only this shape can support the weight lying above. All other shapes get eliminated automatically, and what we are left with indicates the optimum load bearing structure.
The glacier keeps changing every year. The route changes accordingly. Only one team had previously passed on the Kalindi Khal route before us in the season. Ridges which previously led quickly across the glacier get broken. Vishnu spotted the break early enough and plotted another route. Moving around an ice wall, we were on the opposite side of the glacier, in the volatile region bordering the glacier and mountain sides. There was a danger from rock fall, and so we hurried through the scree. Our campsite was on the main ridge within the glacier, so we had to again come into the glacier.
The ridge looked a safe getaway from the possible landslides on the mountains around. A large hanging glacier followed with an ice fall lay to our left as we went up the glacier. As we soon found out our campsite was very close to this dangerous looking giant. Fortunately a fairly deep valley separated our ridge from the mountain. The campsite itself was extremely small. Infact the stony surface was flattened with ice axe and shovel to pitch the tents. It offered magnificent views all around. The valley leading to the Kalindi Khal seemed very close, and the Avalanche peak could be spotted. Having an early dinner (as early as 6pm), we prepared to sleep. The tent is designed for 4 people not because it has enough space for 4 people, but because 4 people sleeping in creates the warmth required. Cramming people up actually works in giving a very comfortable sleep. Not if you hear rocks falling through the night! Everybody was shaken up of sleep at 2am by rocks and ice pieces falling from the hanging glacier. The noise was scary, but our porters saw that it was harmless and slept. I didn�t. I couldn�t.
25 June 2006 : A little distance ahead of the campsite we could see the ice field of the Sita glacier. Walking on the ice would be easier and involve less ups and downs. However we had to cross 2 humps before we got onto the glacier. The glacier was separated into snow fields and long moraine ridges. Between our ridge and the ice field of the glacier was a stream. We had to traverse a long way on the ridge to find a crossing over place. The stream itself is covered with snow and ice, and one needs to be careful about the strength of footing. One of our porters slipped during the crossing. He was left dangling between the 2 edges, his load pulling him down as others tried to pull him out. After 15 minutes of effort he was out of it. Fortunately the fuel he was carrying had not drowned.
We began the long haul up the ice fields of the glacier. As we had made good speed in the day we decided to camp at the last campsite before the climb to the pass. That would save us time on the next day, which was going to be particularly long. The ice field was long and beautiful. Kalindi and Avalanche peaks to our right (with Kalindi pass between them still hidden), unnamed but elegant peaks to our left and a large hump (possibly leading to Tibet) in the front. Looking back we saw the distance we had covered. Atleast 3 km on the ice field. The campsite was to our right, across a snow field and up a moraine ridge.
What appeared a snow field was a field full of streams. It may have been perfectly walkable ice early in the morning, but at 12.30, with sun shining, innumerable streams flowing through the field. It took 30 min to find a dry route through the chilled waters. The campsite was similar to the first glacier camp. Only a bit colder, a bit higher, and a lot windier!
It snowed in evening. We were used to that. It also snowed at night. We got bit worried about it being clear next morning. We were to make an early start. I was also worried about having to go back if need be. With the state of my knee, going back across the Sita glacier, crossing all the moraines of Satopanth, Bhagirathi and Gaumukh would be terrible. I would rather cross the pass and go down the Arwa valley! Vishnu had assured that there wouldn�t be any glacier in the Arwa valley. It would all be down down down along the Alaknanda.
You must have also experienced this, you are searching for something and search all places for it and finally find it somewhere known to you. You didnt look at this place because you felt you knew it. People wander many places finding happiness, and finally come back home and seek it. It had been the same case for this trek. I have been trekking different ranges in Sahyadri searching good places, but had always neglected mountains in Dombivli�s backyard. Haji Malang is the only popular place here, which is also crowed by religious people. Tavi hills near Haji Malang had always been neglected. I do cycle along the base of these mountains, but hardly tried to climb them.
This time it was Madhu who wanted an easy climb suggested Dadi maa and Paanch Peer hills near Malang. Having just recovered from a thigh muscle strain I too was looking forward for an easy trek like this. Then what, stage was set to climb these hills, we both decided to trek. I had anticipated these climbs would be easy and not more than 2 hours, however these hills proved me wrong.
These places being near to Dombivli, we could start our trek quite early. Khusivli, the base village is a small place with not more than 30 houses. Mornings in Indian villages are quite different, and with monsoon time everyone was in field doing farming. Few hands were looking after their cattle grazing in the field. Weather had been amazing, though it wasnt raining but occasional drizzles kept us cool. With only two of us, we kept a steady pace and covered quite a climb in not time. Madhu had kept an amazing stamina and pace, and at his age more than 40 its admiring. I could only hope, I would keep such stamina at that age.
In our way we found pair of lapwings (a bird; locally known as titvya) who started making noise on our site and started hovering above us. They must have been protecting their eggs or young ones. This must be their breeding season. Monsoon is somehow know as time when new life is born, nature rejunevates, there is enthusiasm in the surrounding. It also brings life to the trekking population in Sahyadri too.
We had been climbing for more than 3.5 hours, and the climb was more than anticipated. Almost all our way was through vegetation and shrubs. Weather had been excellent, at some height we were in clouds. Wind had been blowing so rapidly that on the ridge we had to sit down to control ourselves. Wind made the water from the waterfall to fly, resulting hanging waterfall. Visiblity was sparse, top was covered with cloud and there had been white-out. Villagers on the top of Dadi maa offered us some refresing black tea made with jaggery, while we refused their offer to smoke chilam stuffed with some ganja.(!) Since visiblity was less on the top, we decided to climb down. On our way back we had our lunch in a small hut in the way. A bath in the stream and waterfall refreshed us while returning! Bus to Kalyan and then a train ride to Dombivli, brought our trek to an end.
In the end, it was reverse of all anticipation. These hills offer an excellent climb, and the trail is very less used by people, so is still in good condition. These hills have been neglected, mostly by people from Dombivli and Kalyan, who have such excellent places in their backyard. Just like the saying, �ghar ki murgi dal barabar.� A place definitely to be visited again, may be this place at some other time in winter and summer.
For those who want to seek information about this place, Dadi Maa and Paach peer are the hills between Tavli and Malang. Left of Malang are Ganesh-Kartik twin pinacles. Adjacent to it is Paach peer, a col seperates it from Dadi maa. To climb these hills one need to start from village Khusivli, just before the Haji Malang base. A cattle track leads you towards the col between Malang and the twin pinnacles. After walking towards this col, a trail climbs along the stream on the left. A proper marked trail leads to the base of Ganesh-Kartik pinnacles. A traverse futher and a climb leads you to the col between Dadimaa and Paach peer. On top of both the hills, there are few huts and religious establishments like Dargah and Mandir.
It has been more than year that I have written any travelogues. Last was written on 12 March 2005!! Seems so amusing to me. Nevertheless things haven’t changed much. It’s the same me! Trekked Mahuli just two days back and was ready for a trek on Holi.Until 14 th night, we hadn’t decided where to trek. Group was also not yet formed. A meeting was called at Ketan’s house at 2200 hrs on14th. Number of options of trek were decided, but nothing could be finalized. Kohoj will take lot of travel, Dhak Bahiri would be too much hectic after a trek two days back. Lately at 2300 we decided to go to Peth.
Our team was not finalized till morning. People who were to come for trek dropped the last moment, while couple others joined. We finally were a team of 6. (aadha dozen! Somehow I remember a poem from 1st standard ‘ek aur ek akela hoga, ek akela hoga’ ) Swapnil (Swap), Samit (aka Mitmit or Phubbu), Ketan (aka joshi), Mayur (aka Dhamale), Aniket (aka I have the right to remain silent) and ofcourse me.
Onward logistics was fairly simple, 0630 train to Karjat, reaching Karjat at 0730 and taking 0830 bus to Ambivali. The journey to Ambivali by bus takes about an hour. Being Holi day, there was enthusiasm in the environment. We found children in villages with faces smirked with colours throwing coloured water on each other. We had to close windows of the bus, as these children dared to throw colours on LAL Dibba (bus) too. Ambivali village was though a silent village.
Having tea at Ambivali village we started towards Peth. It takes about hour of walk along the broad path slowing climbing towards the Peth village. The forest in the nearby region is dense and full of birds. We could spot atleast dozen of bird species; Some of them I could identify are Parakeets, Purple Sunbird, Crow Pheasant, Paradise Flycatcher, Hoopoe, spotted dove, shrike, Golden oriole, crested bulbuls, bee-eater.
Peth village is located right at the base of the fort. With lots of trekking happeing there, people of the village have made food and accommodation facilities for trekkers. We had taken food with us, but I couldn’t prevent myself by helping those people by buying some food from them. We took some really good Pithla.
It was 1230 by the time we started our climb to the cave atop. It takes about half an hour to reach the caves. The climb is really easy and one can see Bhimashankar, Padar, Tungi and Siddhagad while climbing. And nothing more refreshing than a nimbu pani which the villager was selling in the cave. The cave above is large with more than 3 rooms. Some broken sculptures and inscriptions could be found. Water is also available in plenty on the top with more than 15 large tanks holding rain water. Some of the tanks had really cool and clear water. We had our lunch in the cave and then went around the Peth fort.
A broad funnel type staircase cut in rocks takes you to the top the fort. Peth is also named as Kothaligad. (fort cut from rock, dagadanna kothaloon killa banavla ahe). An excellent piece of work, must have been made much before Shivaji period. View from top is great. Though Peth has not that great height or climb, it’s different from other fort or mountains I have climbed. It is one of the most beautiful forts in this region. Beauty of the fort is at acme during the rains and is known as a monsoon destination in the fraternity of trekkers. Considering the ease and satisfaction, it is a trek which anyone wanting to start trekking should do.
It took us less than hour to reach Ambivali. Along with 4 other trekkers, we hired a 6-seater which took us to Karjat. Hours journey took us back to Dombivli.
I had earlier expected Peth to be a Paploo trek and hence I had never done that. But though it was fairly simple and comforting, it is a wonderful place. We had a wonderful outing. Left away colours of Holi in the city, but not entirely left away from colours. We had play with Bright yellow colour of Golden Oriole, Red colour of Konkon soil, Green colour of Dense Bhimsankar forest, Black the colour of rock which was cut to make the fort. It just makes me feel people of city are colourblind; we had Holi with true colours.
Nothing Else Matters!
Not so long break, but still cant just sit at home. Sudhir, my college friend was thinking of trek, but we hadn�t decided the place yet. It was very late when I decided to trek to Peb. Couple of his friends were also planning to come, but didnt turn up. So it was me and Sudhir for the trek. Since it was Sudhir, whom I had a little confidence, we decided to traverse to Matheran if possible. This route PEb to matheran was thrilling, when I had trekked it in monsoon some years ago.
Took the 7 am train for Karjat from Dombivli . Reached Neral by 8. Heavy rush at Neral, lots of people for matheran for it being a sunday. Kande pohe, misal and a dose of tea to start the trek. On the road outside Karjat we started walking towards CST, we came across a ground and taxi stand, turning left here we reached the highway. Crossing the highway, we entered the fields and started walking straight towards peb, looking at the col joining peb and nakhind. In way we come across a poultry farm. Easiest landmarks going to peb is following the electric poles till the second electric pole on the first plateau. Experience from my previous trek to peb was helping!
Within half an hour we reached the second electric pole on the upper plateau. From here some flat walk leads us towards the col. Just below the col, route branches, one route going towards jungle of Nakhind. We just kept walking towards the col. A small waterstream comes from the col, which we have to climb. Arrow marks guide us through out the trek. We reached the col in some hour and more. From here the valley towards panvel is visible. In left we can see Prabalgad, Kalawanti durg, Irshalgad. In right we can see Haji Malang, Chanderi and Nakhind. We turn left along the ridge here. In few minutes we came across a small rock patch, some 7-8 feet high. Even though I had done this on earlier trek, I found little difficulty in climbing. However it was not at all difficult patch. Once we climbed this patch, traversing along the mountain we reached the cave fort.
Surprise! There were steel doors made to the cave entrance. A samadhi has been made there, and some sansthan is taking care of this cave. However the doors had been locked then, which made me little angry. From where did these people got the ownership! Similar thing I found at Siddhagad cave, where some person whom the villagers call BABA had locked the cave. These baba/sadhu brainwash religious villagers and acquire these places. This is what is happening at many forts, where some baba or haji has damaged the fort. Peb/Vikatgad has now too fallen in this category of forts. Haji Malang, Siddhagad, Ajoba, Vishalgad etc has already fallen prey to these sadhus.
Forgetting about these sadhus, we had our lunch of packed vada pavs, a couple of calls we set off to explore the fort. Little ahead to this main cave, there is small opening in the mountain, which was used as grainery/storage place. During my last trek, I dint bring torch, but this time I had carried one! We crawled inside the cave carefully, after about 10m, there was a ladder some 2m high, which took us down inside the cave. Further 3-4 meters ahead we come to a room which is about 10feetX3feet and 2 feet high. Villagers have lined this room with tiles! Many people use this place for meditation, found a visiting card of yoga institute from Pune there!
Crawling back, we came outside and climbed the fort wall where a ladder was placed. A large water tank is here, though covered with green moss, the water was crystel clear, cold and tasty! We climbed further ahead to the top of peb. Here we meet a trail going towards Matheran. Instead we just climbed the scree slopes looking towards the flag on top, which was appearing quite close. Another dose of surprise, a cemented struture with some Sadhus Padukas installed there. The top was clean off shrubs and steps made at lots of places. Down further ahead a roofed ashram is made. Two persons have been staying here for long. From them I got information, that villagers are trying to make peb a place of religious importance. Religious fairs are held on mahashivratri, holi and datta jayanti. Villagers have also installed a 25 feet ladder ahead on the route, so that every one can come to this place. Impression i got was, Peb was on verge of becoming a Haji/Sri Malang.
Near the ashram, there is a well. Having refreshed here, we started towards Matheran. We came across 25 feet ladder and came to a point where one route from the large peb cave meet. I remember during the monsoon, we had a thrill going along this route, with valley on one side and mountain walls on other, but now the thrill has lost, with proper roads/trails made. Even on the rock patch just below the railway line a ladder has been installed and concrete steps have been made..sad! Its no fun trekking on this route. This route leads us to 154NM milestone on the Neral-Matheran rail route. A proper cement entrance similar to temple entrance has been made here, with a bell on top and arrow indicating Vikatgad/Peb.
We started walking down matheran along rail till 132 NM milstone, then on tar road till a tea shop near monkey hill point and then turned towards a wadi/village on left and took shortcut towards Neral. We were down in Neral in about 3 hours since we left the peb top. Local train was almost waiting for us, had to catch train as soon as we reached there. Another hours journey to Dombivli, and end of trek.
In the end, a good trek. Didn�t carry camera, as Sudhir had brought a digital; and realised much later that his batteries he had brought were discharged Some new places on Peb explored, which I hadnt during my last trek. But there was no thrill this time. Hence the later part turned to be a bit tiring and boring.
Apart from that, NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!
16 for no loss!!!
Till 3rd night it was quite uncertain about the trek. Although trek was decided a few backs earlier. Debate was when to leave. Milind, who had been doing dhak-bahiri for last 5 years, was with opinion of leaving by first morning train. This was to avoid sleeping at karjat bus-stand in chilling cold. Most people at Naka, except few, agreed. Salil decided to go ahead at night. Five more joined him. So the trek started with a split group, 6 people who went ahead at night. While rest (number wasn�t decided yet) decided to by first train on 4th morning.
Winter seemed to have started. Specially in the morning it was quite cold. Finally we were 10 going for the trek. Milind, Abhay , Murudkar,Nikhil, Swapnil had been my trekmates to Ratangad trek. Ghansham, Kunal, Vivek and Samit were the other. We met that Dombivli platform, took the first khopoli train. It was colder in the moving train. It was in the train we saw the sunrise. Reached Karjat by 7. Couple of vadapav to get fueled and a cup of tea for the kick. When we reached Karjat bus stand the bus to Sandshi village had already left. So we took a 10 seater rickshaw to the village.
In the village we met Salil, Himanshu, Omkar, Vaibhav, Nitin and Ajay who had reached here early morning by the first bus. Chilling cold in the village had made to realize their mistake of not coming with us in the morning. It was about 8.15 we started from the village. Road starts from right behind the school in the village. Trail leads through the fields in the vegetation just at the base of Dhak-Bahiri. Sun was just behind Dhak. To the right we could see Rajmachi. The climb was quite steep, but was not quite felt. The constant chit chat led us to the plateau. Few minutes ahead we reached open space from where we could see the flat rock face of the Dhak Bahiri, Pinnacle to the right. Cave could be now seen in middle of the rock face.
There are two ways leading to the cave. One was approaching straight to the cave, a very steep climb in the way. The other is coming from the back side of pinnacle and coming down through a gulley. We took the latter one. The route is along the ridge coming from the pinnacle. Dense vegetation makes one to loose the path. But arrow marks at quite a places help. At one point there is a junction of four trails. One coming from down Sandshi, straight ahead leading to Dhak village, left leading to Rajmachi, and right going towards the pinnacle and cave. There is small steep climb from here. It was in forty five minutes we reached the gulley. Gulley is little slippery due to the scree, however quite narrow and one feel safe.
Now we reached our national highway! Flat narrow patch on the rock walls. We have to traverse along this, till we reach some rock cut steps just below the cave. From here the cave was not more than 50 feet in height. However the exposure is quite felt. Some 10-15 feet we reach a flat patch of rock where 6-7 people can stand. Then there is a narrow traverse to right. Care is must here. Steps are large enough for only place ones feet. Maintaining balance to the wall side and taking small careful steps we reach to the wooden log and the rope. This is the toughest, and thrilling part of the climb. There is a wooden log with some branch shoots still remaining, serving some footholds. Presently there were three ropes anchored in rocks in the cave. Holding the rope and standing on the wooden log one has to climb up to the cave. Few years back there was a natural creeper coming from the cave, which was used instead of rope. Some philanthropist people have put a rope now. It took more than hour for all 16 climb to the cave.
There were people in our group doing their second or third trek. Murudkar was the one who was coming for the trek for third time. It was the first time he had reached the cave. I have heard of many people who didn�t dare to climb on the first time, however gathered courage to climb on second attempt. The whole climb is little exposed and it requires bit of courage and concentration to reach the cave. But we did it, all sixteen of us reached the cave. Probably it was due to group pressure, and nobody actually cribbed in the beginning. It happens that one shows loss of courage and other people join them.
There is nothing much in the cave except stone idol of Bahiri god. Villagers often come here to worship. Pujari in the temple was not there, otherwise shoes are not allowed during the climb. Also females are not allowed in the cave for religious reasons. There is a water tank in the cave having cold water coming from some spring. A small cave near by had feathers of hen which are often given to the god as Bali.
It was 1230 till we all reached the cave, more than 4 hours of climb. We took our lunch. Was Time for some rest. Sun had come on the side of the cave, which meant rocks getting hot while getting down. At distance one could see Rajmachi, Dukes nose, Matheran and Irshalgad. At about 2.30 we made our attempt to leave. Descent would take time, especially for 16 of us. We didn�t made any deliberate attempt, but it happened that we came in three groups, each group with couple of people who will guide the rest. I was first to come down. Coming down the rope was most difficult. However easily did that without help, and traversed and reached the flat rock portion. From here I was guiding others about the footholds below them, which couldn�t be seen. Nikhil, Samit, Chakku, ABhay and Milind did the guiding job. Helping each other we all reached the base of the rock patch. We decided to take the way straight down. Few of us left ahead while others came following us.
There is no source of water in the whole trek, only water available is in the cave. However one may find some water in the stream below during this time of year. Descent seemed to be endless, and we were surprised at ourselves for having climbed so much. Slipped a couple of times, lots of scree in the way. Coming down is time for photography. Few of us who came ahead of others got time to go to the stream and luckily found some clean water. Refreshed ourselves there, by that time other people arrived. When we reached the village it was 6 by then. It took almost 3-4 hours to get down too.
Time to say good bye to Dhak Bahiri. Took 6.15 bus to karjat and immediately found train to Dombivli once we reached Karjat. However train took more than 2 hours to reach Dombivli due to some technical fault. Reached Dombivli by 10.
It was my second trek with the Bharari (WE DARE) group which friends at the Naka had formed and one of the few I went in such a large group. But group size didn�t bother me much. Almost all planning went smooth. Had a nice time with friends, except few debates over my photography. Each one wanted himself in the frame and I wanted everyone to get out of my frame J. It was quite a thrilling and challenging trek, had a great experience. This trek will remain in memories forever.
Nothing else matters!!!
K, S, M and Prabal..!
Scene 1 (Time: 2 pm, 25 nov)
C lick..click..click..thak..tak..thak..thhak..click.gosh! Mr. K (read me) working on his computer for a moment realized nothing what happened. It was the power-cut on part of load sharing. He was in middle of doing some important work, when the power went. Ever since he left his job Computer was the important means of his entertainment and these regular power cuts troubled him. Now he was thinking what to do, when the telephone ring rang.
H i K, how are you? S(read swapnil) here. What are you doing?
N othing important. K replies.
W ill you come for a trek tomorrow? I am planning to go to Prabalgad. Yes, the one near Panvel.
K had often committed to such treks to S, and many times S had ditched the trek. So he didnt plan to take it seriously. S, I am planning to go for Kulang after two days, I dont think I would make for the trek. By the way, who else are coming. I will tell you later if I can join you.
That’s ok. Till now I haven’t asked anybody. I will call you when I come back from office. Bye.
K hangs up the phone, and takes up the newspaper which was kept near to telephone and starts reading.
Scene 2: Its 6 in the evening.
T he telephone bell ringing.
K receives the call. May I speak to K.
Y es, speaking. K replies.
H ey K, I am A (read Anurag, my IIT junior doing his last year). What are you doing? If nothing, then why don’t you come with me for a night trek. We will leave tonight after few hours to Naneghat and will do Jeevdhan and come back tomorrow evening.
K doesn’t seem much interested. A don’t you have your endsem and BTP going. How can we go for trek?
I just finished my last paper just now at 5.30. I desperately wanna do a trek. I can spare tomorrow, after that I have to do BTP work. Will you come.
( silence..K thinking seems less interested in night trek)..Arre sorry yaar. I don�t think I will come. I have gone to Naneghat once. And also I will be going to Kulang on Sunday. Hey, why don�t you join me to Kulang. I hope you remember the last time we went to Kulang, both of us, and we lost our way..I made you to drink dirty water. We could do Kulang this time
B TP!! I cant come. If you are not coming, please suggest me some one day trek then. Its too hot nowadays, I didn�t want to trek in sun.
W hy not then go to Siddhagad, I just did that last weekend. Whole trek is in shade. You can do that..I will mail you the details if you want.
O K�mail me the details..I will see where I can go..Chal bye..
C lick..click, click, click..thuk..tak..tak..thak..click..K back on computer, mailing A details.
Scene 3: 8.30 late evening.
A gain the telephone rings, and again K receives the call.
K , S here. So coming to Prabalgad tomorrow? One of my friends is also interested. We can go, and also you too haven�t gone to Prabalgad before.
K thinking for a moment: .OK we will go! When and where should we meet? I will check with one of my friends if he is coming.
O K, I will call you then when I reach home, may be by 10. Telephone hangs up.
K don�t know how he became ready for the trek. He had already told no to A. K searching for some number, finds it and dials
M ay I speak to M sir (read Madhu, teacher, ex-IITian).
H i, Its K here. Sorry I dint call you. I told you, we will go for two day trek to Ratangad or Harishchandragad. Actually, I dint want to do two day trek. Would you come for one day, my friend is planning to go to Prabalgad tomorrow.
P rabalgad-tomorrow, sounds little uninterested..actually I had been to Prabalgad once, but it was way back in 1991. I will come. But do you know the route?
D on�t worry, I have couple of books. And net has loads of data. I will just read.
O K, I will read too. Tell me where and when to come.
A ctually, I am not sure of my friend. He has habit of giving Kalti, many times. I will call you by 10 in night. If I don�t call then we are not going. K smiling OK bye..
K tried then desperately reaching A. But all in vain, couldn’t catch him. People who don�t have mobile make other people�s life difficult. Suddenly realizes he too don�t own a mobile. Smiles..
Scene 4: 6.10 am of 26 Nov.
D ogs barking all round. Newspaper wala and milkman seen rushing to business. Some office going people too seem to be in hurry.
T his is Mumbai! K thinking, when he just saw the Panvel bus going. Now wait for another half an hour, he thought.
K reached the bus stand and saw the timetable. Next bus at 7. Nahhiiiiiii!
S and M reached in couple of moments, when K told them the tragedy.
K >> What�s the time?
S , the only one who had the watch, replies 6.15
K > No way we are waiting here for another 45 minutes. Should we go to Manpada phata, and get buses coming from Kalyan?
M >> Not a bad idea! But how to go to Manpada.
S >> Share auto! While he was calling one auto.
S ome 5 mins later�
M >> Hey this will is the bus to Kalyan…Hurry up! Check if we can have the seats.
B us seemed to be empty. Few passengers sitting in front with back seats vacant. All three occupied seats at back.
M >> We are sitting on the wheel, be ready for a rough drive.
K >> S, what have you brought for lunch. I have brought bread, butter and some apples.
S >> I haven�t brought anything. It was too late at night and too early in morning. But I have brought extra bottle as you have told. We wont be getting much water on top.
M >> Not sure, but we may get water this time of year. It was not there in march when we went. By the way I have brought Khichadi, would be good for all of us, and few apples.
K >> Good!
A fter about 40 minutes, Three of them are seen in hotel just outside Panvel bus stand.
K >> Bring us, two spicy mesal, and one kande pohe..and three cups of tea afterwards.
Scene 5: Around 10 in morning, on slopes of prabalgad
K busy with his new camera, taking close ups of some flowers. S sweating, M looking towards the village down.
M >> look that�s the bunglow from where we started the climb.
A fter the breakfast in hotel, they took some 6 seater from little ahead of panvel bus stand for Vardoli village. There is one diversion on Panvel-Chowk highway going towards Shedung village and ahead. The auto left them just ahead of Appolo hospital ahead of Vardoli in the Thakurwadi village. From there they asked few locals the route to Prabalgad. Actually there are two routes to the top. Seeing Prabalgad, one is from left, which climbs along the ridge coming from Kalavanti durg (pinnacle like thing on Prabalgad). While other one from right climb the ridge leading to lower plateau level of Prabalgad and further ahead. These three decided to climb from right towards prabalmachi(the plateau).
S >> Hey look, I am getting full strength orange signal!
K >> May be its due to the closeness to the Pune express highway, we just crossed enroute. Look there is our own Malanggad which we can see from Dombivli. We are actually see the back of it now. Behind that must be Dombivli.
M >> We can see the whole range. Malang, Tavli hills, Mhasmal, Chanderi.. On back side PRabal we must see Nakhind, Peb, Matheran and Irshalgad.
A ll started climbing some steep patch now. Silence once again.
S cene 6 Around 11
T hree reached the plateau and traversing towards the Kalawanti durg. They actually left one route which went directly to the top from the prabalmachi. Now they were making there way out of thick bushes. One small trail was leading them towards the other end of PRabal.
I ts butterfly farm K saying while shooting a butterfly. But you need patience shooting a butterfly and some luck.
M looked shocked. What happened? said S.
M >> Almost got a kiss.
F rom a snake! There was one sitting on the bushes. It got shocked when it saw me. M said smiling, his experience in the wild gave him the nerves.
S >> Be careful now.
M >> Lets rest here in open shade for a while. S takes some biscuits if you can.
Scene 7: 11.30
K aluram, a local from the prabal village climbing the steep slope through a gully. Other three following them, they took Kaluram as guide. Almost lost the way for a while. The route was going right from the main trail, covered by dense bushes. No way one could have found the way in those bushes. Good luck that they found Kaluram.
S weating.. S>> ya, looks like we made to the top of prabal. Gosh! Great climb, hidden in the gulley.
M >> lets move towards the ganesh temple on the top.
D ense vegetation on the top. Ground couldn�t be seen, all grasses. All admiring Kaluram, leading them towards the Ganesh temple.
K >> Ohh, look at the temple, all hidden. We couldn�t have found that. But where is water, we read. It must be near the temple.
K aluram, leading them again to the slope downwards to a path where small stream was running. Water still there! After few months this stream will be dry, only one small tank will hold some water.
M >> time for lunch! Good place.. we will have our lunch and rest for a while. By 2 we will start from here.
K removing bread, butter. M removing Khicadi, pickle.
Scene 8: 2.30
M >> K, that small pond formed there was tempting. You had a good swim when I was having a nap.
K >> yes, it was cool clear water. S you should have come in too! Forget about clothes (read getting wet after that J )
S >> Hey look! We have just reached the northern end of Prabal. There is the Kalawanti durg at the bottom. Gosh! Look at the steps cut in the rocks. Must be great thrill climbing up. Good exposure. There is our Malang, Tavli, Mhasmal, Chanderi.
K >> And this is Nakhind on left and peb on right of col there. And look at the bunglows and tower on top of matheran. Great forest on top of matheran too.
W hat! With Kaluram pointing to the small farmhouse at the base. It is Salman Khan�s bunglow !! Look its artificial lake with small island in between. That green must be his swimming pool. Nice place to have a farm house!
M >> lets move from here! We have to climb back down too..
Scene 9: 4 pm
S >> Where will we find a rickshaw? My legs are paining.
A ll three walking on tar road at the base. They took the way down leading from Kalawanti durg. It was a national highway for trekkers. In no time they reached down. K regretting for not having brought extra roll. He missed many shots up there.
K >> Hey look, luck favored you. Theres the rickshaw.
C limbing the rick, they reached the diversion on the highway in few minutes. Took another 6 seater to Panvel.
M >> Its 6 pm now. Twelve hours since we started. Time for some petrol! Which hotel should we go?
K >> May be hotel visava! We need some rest. In morning we tried hotel rahul.
M >>Two plates vada sambhar, one missal and three cup kadak tea.
Scene 10 : 7.30 pm Char rasta, Dombivli
S >> OK guys time to leave. K get the snaps fast. Coming to Dhak Bahiri on 4th na?
K smiling, This time you dint give us kalti. I will try.
S miling too S>> Arre, there were some genuine reasons, else I haven�t given you Kalti any time.
M >> good! Was a good hike. Hope the snake wasn�t frightened too much. Good vegetation on top.
K >> yes, may be much people don�t come here. We saw lots of butterflies and many species of birds. Some little haze would have given me chance to shoot the mountain range. Otherwise, nice hangout. Nothing else matters!
Scene 11: 10 pm
Return of the Bugger!
A friend of mine once asked me, why do I trek? I couldn’t answer him. I thought of all things I liked about trekking. About the lovely remote places, about the stamina required, the sense of achievement, proximity with great mother nature, sense of being oneself, the cool energy pumping sunrise seen from the topmost point which gives so much warmth, the soothing sunset which drives all the sadness, the millions of stars which cannot be seen from city, the silence and peace being away from city and loads of other things. But all these were from my point of view, and all persons need not like it. I replied, I love trek because it gives me a chance to mail you!
Actually there are two types of world, the local world and the universal world. Local world is the world I see, I hear, I taste, I smell, I sense. Its my world. It doesn’t include anyone else. Universal world is one which we all see. A problem always has two solutions one in local world and other in universal world. And when I trek, I try to find pleasure in my local world. But I am not able to see my trek in the universal world. That is all the purpose of my mail to bring my trek in universal world. So now its your job to bring mail from the universal world in the local world. There may be many ways in which one can read through my mail. One can consider it a act of show off, craze and delete the mail or one can enjoy the ‘being a part’ feeling. So please help me find an innovative way by which I can present my treks to you in your local world.
So my new mail! Reason: Siddhagad trek! This time it was with Amol Kale, who had met me once on Harishchandragad trek few months back and his friends: Vijay, Rupak, Meghna and Mugdha. Its so difficult to get early on Sundays. But its not so difficult when you are going for a trek. Body clock wakes you up. Often happened that I have got up on time without my alarm going on. Took train to Kalyan, where all trek fellows met, got introduced. Seems like a mission, people get mail to reach location X at time Y on date Z. Nobody knows each other. There is a commanding officer (Amol) who knows all of them. So having reached the location at given time and date, we take bus for Murbad. It requires energy to complete a mission. Which comes from hot tea and vada pav at Murbad bus stand. Another bus drop to village Narivali at the base of the mountain from where the trek begins.
For any mission the beginning is very very important. Finding the right path leads you to your destination early. We failed this time. We took some wrong jungle route, but were lucky to realized this in time and came back to proper track. Sahyadri consists of the main north south mountain range with some small ranges running east west. This range near Murbad is famous among trekking group. Range starts from the near Karjat, leading to Bhimashankar. It is near Siddhagad the range turns north south. Further ahead are Damdamia, Gorakhgad, Machindragad, Durg, Dhakoba, Jeevdhan, Naneghat and then the Malshej ghat.
Siddhagad is a good one day trek. Most of the climb is through mountain gully and vegetation, so not much of sun on the way. Some 1-2 Kilometers of walk lead you to the base of mountain from where the real climb starts. This gradual climb leads on to some wadi (group of houses) in the way. Here we had our first break for Buttermilk available the wadi. Further ahead climb becomes little steep and mostly through boulders and some times across stream. About 2-3 hours from Narivali we reach the gate at top.
The gate is at the first plateau on which the great mass of Siddhagad stands. There is small village on this plateau, Siddhagadwadi. Water is available here most of time during the year. Now further climb of about half an hour leads us to the cave cut in the walls of Siddhagad. The climb is mostly along steep slopes with lot of scree (loose grass, and small stones, creates lots of difficulty specially while climbing down). Finally reached the cave, we can see Siddhagadwadi down on the plateau and Narivali village far below. In front you can see pinnacle of Gorakhgad with small cave just below the pinnacle and small red mandir on the top. Amol and Vijay were in Siddhagadwadi for some work. Rest were tired to go up to the top. So I left alone to the top of Siddhagad. Small steps are cut in rock face, some crisscrossing leads you to the top. At one point of time I lost the route, with only rock face ahead. Some 20 feet still left from the top. For the second time couldn’t get to the top of Siddhagad. Decided to come back.
Now we came back to Siddhagadwadi and a temple near that. Had our lunch there. Sandwiches, vada pav, khakra, and some puran poli. Quite refreshing. It was about 2.30 and so we decided to leave. Climb down is not that difficult, so its time for photography! About 2 hours we reached the base. It was time to leave, we were lucky enough to get a jeep to Murbad. Generally one has to take jeep to Mhasa, which is midway and then another jeep to Murbad.
This jeep transport is quite interesting. I have found this in most parts of Maharashtra and other states as well. The local government transport system is not that good, but people have found a solution and a way to earn their livelihood. These jeep drivers are generally youths of villages. These jeeps ply regularly between two villages, and one has to often change jeeps when it’s a long distance to cover. The capacity of jeep is always varying. For standard calculation purpose, it is 13. The jeep driver doesnt move ahead if he gets at least income worth 13 passengers. But this number can go upto 25 or more! In our jeep it was 21. And for people like us who don’t come to these roads quite often, its quite excitement traveling standing at the door or sitting on the top of jeep!
So couple of Kadak chai at Murbad, we were back to life. Another hours journey in bus to Kalyan, some snacks at restaurant, and train back to Dombivli brings an end to partly successful mission.
In the end, suggest me some more interesting way of writing my travelogues. Trek good, peaceful, and refresing specially after the worst Rajgad trek last week.
NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!