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.