ट्रेकचा एक अनुभव – रायगड ते तोरणा डिसेंबर १९८३

(१९८३ साली डिसेम्बर मध्ये मी IIT तील काही मित्र मैत्रिणींबरोबर एका ट्रेकला गेलो होतो. त्या वेळची ही एक आठवण. )

रायगडाचा निरोप घेऊन आम्ही १८ जणांनी राजगडाच्या दिशेने कूच केले. काही वेळानंतर एका मार्गाने घळीतून डोंगर चढायला आम्ही सुरुवात केली. जवळ जवळ तासभर चढ चढल्यावर वाट खूपच कठीण होत गेली. थोड्याच वेळात आमच्या लक्षात आले की आम्ही घेतलेली ही वाट म्हणजे खरी वाट नसून एक सुकून गेलेला ओढा होता. कडा चढण्याची खरी वाट बहुदा पुढच्या घळीतून गेली होती. पण आता सावरायला खूप उशीर झालेला होता. एवढे चढलेले उतरून जाणे शक्यच नव्हते. पण ओढा सोडून दुसरा मार्गही शक्य नव्हता. दोन्ही बाजूंना जंगल भरलेले होते. त्यातून वाट काढणे शक्य वाटत नव्हते. प्राप्त परिस्थितीत आहे त्या मार्गाने ओढ्यातूनच पुढे चालत / वर चढत राहणे भाग होते.

डिसेम्बर महिना असूनही ऊन बऱ्यापैकी तळपत होते. लवकरच लक्षात आले की आमच्याकडील बहुतेकांकडील पाण्याचा साठा संपत चालला होता. आमच्या नायकाने मग सूत्रे हाती घेतली व सर्वांना आपल्या जवळील पाणी जरा जास्तच काळजीपूर्वक वापरण्याची विनंती, नव्हे आज्ञाच केली. पण ऊन मी म्हणत होते व हळू हळू उर्वरित पाणीही लवकरच संपून गेले.

ओढ्याने जरा आणखी उभा चढ घेतला होता. त्यामुळे आमची मार्गावरची प्रगती कमी होत गेली. पण प्रगतीप्रमाणेच पाण्याची गरज ही कमी होत गेली. सुदैवाने सूर्य मावळतीला कलला होता व त्यामुळे त्याचा ताप व त्यामुळेच पाण्यासाठीचा कंठशोष ही कमी कमी होत गेला.

पण कोणत्याही गोष्टीत जसे काही फायदे असतात तसेच थोडेफार तोटेही असतात. किंबहुना फायद्यांवर लक्ष ठेवून तोट्यांकडे दुर्लक्ष करून धीर न सोडता, आहे त्या परिस्थितीत मार्ग क्रमत राहणे हेच केंव्हाही श्रेयस्कर असते.

ऊन कलल्यावर लगेच प्रकाश कमी होत गेला. लवकरच काळोख पडण्याची लक्षणे दिसू लागली, पायाखालची वाट अंधारून येऊ लागली. ओढ्याने आता एका सुक्या धबधब्याचे “कडे” रूप धारण केले होते. आमच्यातील काही पहिलटकर व पहिलटकरणी धीर सोडू लागले होते. तेंव्हा आमच्या नायकाने मग सांगितले की अशा धबधब्याचा अर्थ आहे की आपली चढाई आता संपत आली आहे व या धबधब्यानंतर आपण पठारावर पोहोचू. झाडांच्या डोक्यावरून दिसणारे आकाशही हेच सुचवत होते. पठारावर लवकरच आपल्याला गाव लागेल याची त्याला खात्री वाटत होती.

आमच्यातील नवशिक्यांना तो ओढा चढून जाणे फार कठीण व भीतीदायक वाटत होते.
त्यामुळे ट्रेकिंग मधील experts मग प्रस्तर-रोहन (rock climbing) करत वर चढून गेले व त्यांनी दोर खाली सोडला. त्या दोराला धरून इतरांच्या मदतीने मग सर्वजण वर चढून गेले. बहुतेक नवशिक्यांनी आपल्या सामानाच्या sacks मागे ठेवल्या होत्या. त्या वर आणण्यासाठी काही जणांना मग अधिक वेळा वर खाली करणे भाग पडले. कसेबसे आम्ही ओढ्याचा कठीण भाग दोरीच्या सहाय्याने चढून आता थोड्या फार सपाटीवर आलो हा त्यातल्या त्यात एक चांगला भाग वाटत होता.

आमच्या जवळील एकाकडे सरबताच्या ७५० मी लि च्या दोन बाटल्या होत्या. पण त्या अगदी शेवटचा उपाय म्हणून आणीबाणीसाठी राखून ठेवण्याचे धोरण नायकाने बाळगले व राबवले होते. पण आता पठारावर आल्यामुळे ट्रेकचा गंभीर भाग संपला होता असे त्या वेळी तरी सर्वांचे मत पडले होते. त्यामुळे सरलेल्या / टळलेल्या संकटाच्या नावे व सेलिब्रेशन म्हणून त्या आता उघडण्याचे सर्वानुमते ठरले. १५०० मिली व १८ माणसे म्हणजे साधारणतः ८० मिली प्रत्येकी सरबत देण्याचे ठरले. सुनील ने बाटल्या बाहेर काढल्या व तो एक बाटली उघडू लागला. बुच उघडले व त्याने बाटली ओतण्यासाठी पुढे केली. पण काय होते ते कळायच्या आधीच ती बाटली त्याच्या हातून सुटली व खाली खडकावर आपटून खळकन फुटली. त्या काळी आजच्या सारख्या प्लास्टिकच्या बाटल्या सर्रास वापरात नव्हत्या. प्रत्येकी ८० मिली सरबत खळकन ४० मिली वर आले. सुनीलवर अर्थातच शिव्यांचा वर्षाव झाला.

सरबत पिण्यात व सुनीलशी वाद घालण्यात आणखी बराच काळ निघून गेला होता व आता पूर्ण काळोख पडला होता. वाट पूर्णपणे अंधारात बुडाली होती. तरी आम्ही पायवाटेने पुढे चालणे सुरु ठेवले. पण अर्धा तास चालूनही गाव किंवा मनुष्यवस्ती यांचा काहीच पत्ता नव्हता. हाकारे / कुकारे बरेच घालून झाले. पण त्याला प्रतिसाद मात्र येत नव्हता. सर्वजण आता कंटाळून गेले होते. भूक व तहान यांनी सगळे आता व्याकूळ झाले होते. शेवटी एके ठिकाणी बरीचशी सपाट व मोकळी जागा आल्यावर तेथेच तंबू टाकायचं ठरलं. खरंतर तंबू वगैरे काही नव्हते आमच्याकडे. कारण मुक्काम साधारणतः देवळात किंवा कुणाच्यातरी पडवीत होत असे. पण तेथे रात्र घालवण्याचे ठरले म्हणा ना.

आता मुख्य गरज होती ती पाण्याची सोय करण्याची. पाणी मिळणारच हे गृहीत धरून मग नायकाने जेवणाची व्यवस्था करण्यास सुरुवात केली. चुलीसाठी दगड व सर्पणासाठी लाकडे शोधण्यासाठी तुकड्या पाडण्यात आल्या. आम्ही काही जण पाण्याच्या शोधार्थ काही मोठी व काही लहान भांडी / बाटल्या घेवून निघालो. प्रथम एक बारीकसा पाण्याचा स्रोत लागला. त्यातून थेंब थेंब पाणी गळत होतं. तेथे खाली एक पातेले लावून ठेवले. जवळच एक डबके होते. त्यातील पाणी खूपच गढूळ / घाणेरडे वाटत होते. गुरांच्या खुरांचे सर्वत्र उमटले होते. पण आहे त्या परिस्थितीत आम्हाला काहीच पर्याय नव्हता. थोडं पुढे खालच्या बाजूला जरा त्याहून चांगले वाटणाऱ्या पाण्याचे आणखी एक छोटेसे डबके सापडले. मग त्यातही पाण्याची प्रतवारी करण्यात आली. अगदीच अस्वच्छ पाणी धुण्या-भांड्यांसाठी, त्यातल्या त्यात बरेसे वाटणारे पाणी चहासाठी व उकळण्यासाठी / जेवणासाठी व त्याहून चांगलेसे पाणी (मुख्यतः थेंब थेंब गळं पातेल्यातील) आहे तसेच पिण्यासाठी असे विविध प्रकारचे ५-१० लि पाणी घेऊन आम्ही परतलो. तोवर इतरांच्या तोंडचे पाणी अक्षरशः पळाले होते. पण आमच्याकडील पाण्याची भरलेली भांडी पाहून सर्वांचा जीव भांड्यात पडला. त्यातील काही जणांनी (मुख्यतः मुलींनी) टूम काढली की चला आम्हीही तिकडे येतो म्हणजे आम्हाला तेथेच जास्त पाणी पिता येईल, स्वच्छपैकी हात पाय तोंड धुता येतील . पण त्या पाण्याचा स्रोत पाहून बऱ्याच जणांनी ते पिण्यास सोडा पण त्याला स्पर्श करण्यासही नकार दिला असता याची आम्हा पाणक्यांना पूर्ण जाणीव होती. त्यामुळे खूप प्रयत्नांनी त्यांचे मन वळवून त्यांना चहाची तयारी करण्यास नायकाने भाग पाडले.

काही जणांनी आता जेवणाची सुरुवात केली. चहा पिऊन आम्ही पाणके पुन्हा जास्त पाणी आणण्यास निघालो. इतरांना आमच्या मदतीसाठी न नेण्यासाठी पुन्हा एकदा प्रयत्न करावे लागले. तेंव्हा मग एका मुलीने त्याचा अर्थ ओळखला. ती म्हणाली “बहुदा ते अशा प्रकारचे पाणी आणत असावेत की ते आपण न पाहिलेलेच बरं.” त्यानंतर मात्र कोणीही पाण्यासाठी आमची मदत करण्याचा विषय पुन्हा काढला नाही. दोन तीन चकरा मारल्यावर उदंड पाणी झाले. अगदी सर्वांना हात पाय सुद्धा थोडेफार धुता आले. जेवणानंतर भांडी मात्र त्या डबक्या जवळ नेऊन धुतली.

त्यानंतर अर्थातच शेकोटी, गाण्याच्या भेंड्या, मूकाभिनय इत्यादी सर्व प्रकार झाले. आता रात्रीचे अकरा वाजत आले होते. पण झोपायला मात्र कोणीही तयार होत नव्हते. संध्याकाळीच गप्पांच्या ओघात कुणी म्हणाले होते की मागच्याच वर्षी काही जणांनी या परिसरात वाघ पाहिला होता. त्या भीतीमुळे कुणाची झोपायची हिम्मत होत नव्हती.

दूरवर भजनाचा / टाळांचा गजर अंधुकसा ऐकू येत होता. त्या आवाजाच्या मागाने आपण वाट काढत गेलो तर गावात पोहोचू व शांतपणे सुरक्षित तेथे झोपू असे काही जणांना वाटत होते. पण काहींना मात्र आपण आहो ती चांगली जागा सोडून त्या मार्गाने जाणे चुकीचे वाटत होते. शेवटी बहुमताने आहो तेथेच रात्र काढण्याचे ठरले.

वाघ विस्तवाला / आगीला घाबरतो म्हणून रात्रभर शेकोटी पेटत ठेवण्याचे नक्की झाले. त्यासाठी जास्तीची लाकडे शोधून आणली. शेकोटीभोवती sacksचे वर्तुळ करून त्याच्या मध्ये झोपायचे व दोघा-चौघांनी आळीपाळीने जागून पहारा द्यायचे व वाघाची चाहूल लागलीच तर आरडाओरड करून सर्वांना जागे करायचे असं ठरले. ब्रिज खेळणाऱ्या आम्हा चौघांचा अर्थातच पहिल्या पाळीत आपोआपच समावेश झाला. बऱ्याच वेळानंतर असे लक्षात आले की बहुतेकजण डोळे मिटले तरी जागेच होते. पण मग साधारणतः १२-१ नंतर हळूहळू भीतीची जागा झोपेने घेऊन बहुतेक जण निद्रादेवीच्या आधीन होत गेले. आमचा ब्रिजचा डावही खूप रंगात आला. साधारणतः ४ – ४।। च्या सुमारास अगदी सुरुवातीला झोपलेली काही मंडळी जागी झाली व त्यांनी पहाऱ्याची जबाबदारी त्यांच्या अंगावर घेतल्यामुळे आम्ही ब्रिजवासी आता झोपायला मोकळे झालो. पहाटेच्या मंद वाऱ्यात डोळे कधी मिटले ते लक्षात ही आले नाही.

सकाळी उजाडल्यावर एक एक जण उठू लागले. पुन्हा एकदा चहा नाश्ता झाला व आम्ही पुढच्या मार्गाने कूच केले.

जाता जाता आम्ही त्या पाण्याच्या डबक्याजवळ आलो. रात्रभराच्या विश्रांतीनंतर ते पाणी आता निवळले होते व फारच स्वच्छ दिसत होते. कालची शंका घेणारी मुलगी मग आपण ती शंका उगीचच घेतली म्हणून आमची क्षमा मागू लागली तेंव्हा ‘झाकली मूठ’ न्यायाने आम्हीही अळीमिळी गुपचिळी बाळगली.

अर्ध्या तासाच्या चालण्यानंतर आम्ही गावात पोहोचलो तेंव्हा काही गावकरी म्हणाले की काल रात्री तुम्हीच कुकारे घालत होता का? आम्हाला एकदा वाटले की मदतीला यावे पण मग ते कुकारे थांबले व आम्ही नाद सोडला.

आपण जरा जास्त प्रयत्न केले असते तर बरे झाले असते. कालची रात्र जरा जास्त आरामात गेली असती असे आमच्यापैकी बहुतेकांना वाटले असणारच. पण मग आम्ही कालच्या विलक्षण अनुभवला ही मुकलो असतो. नाही का?

आज जवळजवळ अडीच तपानंतर तपांनंतर सुद्धा तो अनुभव पूर्णपणे लक्षात आहे. आयुष्यातील असे अविस्मरणीय अनुभव हेच खरं जगणं नाही का?

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Naneghat to Peth (Dec 1989) – Part II

Continuing from our stay at Dhakoba. Read further…

Day 3 (Durgakilla)

In the morning we got up a bit leisurely and explored the rest of the fort. Since our next destination was Durgakilla, about 4 hours of walk, we had ample time to cook khaman dhoklas for breakfast. We had to really improvise the utensils and plates available with us to design the steam cooker required for dhoklas. This contraption was possible because of the portable coolking kit Trangia brought by Geeta. All throughout the trek Trangia reduced our cooking effort tremendously.

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Temple on Dhakoba

It was a valiant attempt to make dhoklas on a trek and I think wasn’t a great success. That was last time I ever made dhoklas in my life.

Due to this elaborate breakfast we started at about 11.00 am. The walk from Dhakoba to Durgakilla is along the top of a ridge so it was quite gentle with hardly any ups and downs. But it was not a straight and at times it was through dense Karvi forest. There were quite a few locations on this leg when we could see both Dhakoba as well as Durgakilla.

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Dhakoba (on way to Durgakilla)

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Durgakilla (approach from Dhakoba)

When we finally reached the temple of Durgakilla, we realised that the water point was quite some distance. Some villagers informed us that a leopard was active in the area and he had just killed one of their cattle. So it was decided that we would get as much water as possible before it becomes dark. Luckily there were some vessels in the temple which we were permitted to use. Thus nobody was required to go to fetch water in the dark.

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On the way to Durgakilla

Though the temple did have a door frame, it did not have any door. The chance of an encounter had instilled an unknown fear in all of us. This was before the leopard in the campus days. So we had not yet got used to a leopard around us. All thorughout the night we would wake up due to the sound of leaves falling on the roof or monkeys moving among the trees.

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Temple on Durgakilla

Day 4 (Ahupe, Siddhagadh)

Next day we got up early, but we did not have any water for cooking our breakfast so it was decided that we would skip breakfast and reach the nearest village for water and then decide the plan for the day. We reached the village well at about 7.00 am and there we took sometime to freshen up, brush our teeth and replenish our water supply.

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On way to Ahupe

Our destination for the day was the village of Ahupe and it was assumed that if we do not loose our way then we should be in Ahupe at about 3 pm.

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On way to Ahupe

On the way we stopped at a hamlet for lunch and Yogesh Bhagwat (Bagga) had a long conversation with one of the villagers. According to him, Ahupe is very big village and quite few hamlets(padas) are its part. His hamlet was also part of Ahupe and so is Sakhar Machi. Bagga had been to Siddhagadh in the monsoon from Konkan and he had met people with heavy headloads and climbing towards Sakhar Machi. We concluded that if we are are in Ahupe then we can definitely reach Siddhagadh before sunset.

So we quickened our pace and did not stop at the main village of Ahupe, as originally planned. We got confirmation from some more villagers that Sakhar Machi is indeed part of Ahupe and it is just behind one of the hill seen at a distance. We estimated that it would take about an hour to reach the hill, another and maybe 30 minutes to reach Sakhar Machi and thereafter another two hours at max to reach Siddhagadh. So we would reach Siddhagadh comortably before 5.00 pm.

It was almost 3.00 pm by the time we reached the top of the hill and we could see a well-troden path going down the hill. Since we still could not see the hamlet of Sakhar Machi from this point, we decided to follow the path downhill. Soon we realised that the path was more treacherous than anything that anyone of us had done in our entire life. It was going downhill, full of scree, lot of exposure and no trees or shrubs to arrest your fall. It took us almost two hours to reach Sakhar Machi from the top of the hill.

The fort of Siddhagadh was still two hours away. Since this was in winter, the final one hour was done in complete dark. It was probably 7.00 pm or beyond by the time we reached Siddhagadh temple, our shelter for the night halt. We had difficulty in getting water from the village well and it took us some more time to get the firewood for cooking our dinner. I remember having roasted potatoes for the night.

Day 5 (Bhimashankar)

After breakfast on the next day morning, we deicided to explore the top of fort. It is almost an hour climb from the temple, and the last 10-15 minutes is through scree was a bit difficult.

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Sakharmachi (from Siddhagadh)

There is no structure of note on the top, but Siddhagadh juts out of the main Sahyadri range hence it offers a panoramic view. On south side we could see all the way from Bhimashankar, Tungi to Peth, whereas towards north we could see the village of Ahupe, Dhakoba, Naneghat and Jivdhan. Next to Siddhagadh at a lower level are the forts of Gorkhgadh and Macchindranath. To the west one could see the entire Matheran range. But the most important view for us was the treacherous descent to Sakhar Machi, which we captured on our camera.

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Gorakhgadh (from Siddhagadh)

We also found a old canon near the col between Siddhagadh and Main range. Some of us successfully tried to lift it. We spent a lot of time exploring the fort and hence by the time we started for Bhimashankar, it was almost 11 am. It was steep climb back to the plateau on the main range. Thereafter it was an undulating walk through dense forest. This part of the walk was thoroughly pleasant and enjoyable. I had seen the Shekru (Giant Squirrel) a few times during my previous visit to Bhimashankar. So I had asked everybody to be alert to any noise in the trees above.

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Canon on Siddhagadh

We passed the last village before Bhimashankar at about 5.00 pm and thereafter it was a walk on the tarred road. It was almost 7.00 pm until we reached Bhimashankar. We stayed at a abandoned house, just outside the main village. This is very close to the water pond which we see just as one climbs up from the Khandas route.

Nothing unusual except for the dogs which kept sneaking into our beds while we were asleep.

Day 6 (Wandre)

I got up early in the morning and prepared breakfast. I had been to Bhimashankar a lot of times in the past and I had never brought home any prasad from the temple. And I thought it would be even more appreciated at home if I were to take bath and then enter the temple. So I asked others to explore the surrounding area and meet me at the temple after their exploration. Bhimashankar is a bird watcher’s delight and it offers good view point from the highest point Nagphani (marathi for Hood of the Cobra).

I took a bath at the pond just outside our shelter, then changed into my clean spare clothing. Taking a bath on a trek is considered a luxury but changing into good clean clothes is even more luxurious. It was almost 10.00 am when we assembled again at the Bhimashankar temple. After all the members had their darshan at the temple, it was time for us to go to Peth. From Bhimashankar to Peth it is about 16 km of dense forest with hardly any chance of meeting any soul. Moreover, the forest is home to the Shekru as well as carnivore like leopard. I had been on a part of the trail once during the Himankan 87 organisers hike. So I also did not know the path well, and thus there were ample opportunities for us to loose the path and have a chance encounter with a leopard.

The path starts right behind the temple and it follows the stream (Bhima River) that originates at the kund near the temple. The stream is actually river Bhima which is also known as the river Chandrabhaga at Pandharpur and is considered to be one of the sacred rivers of Maharashtra. During the dry season there is no water in the stream, but water appears in the stream after a certain distance at a spot known as Gupt Bhimashankar, which is about 30-45 minutes downstream walk from the main temple. At Gupt Bhimashankar also there is a temple, where hardly anybody worships.

Thereafter the trail does not have any important landmarks so one has rely on intuition to decide the correct path forward. Fortunately we did not loose our path and we reached the village of Wandre at about 4.00 pm. Our destination for the day was the fort of Peth, which was still about 2 more hours. I thought that the temple of Wandre village offered a good shelter so proposed that we stay here for the night instead of going to Peth. There was a lot of debate on the pro and cons of this suggestion, but eventually all agreed to my proposal.

Day 7 (Peth)

On the final day, we started early from Wandre. Initially it is a flat walk and then it was some climb to reach the edge of the Ghats. Thereafter it was a descent of almost 1500 ft. onto the ridge that connects the Peth fort to the main Sahyadris. Thereafter again a gentle walk until we reached the base village. After a small climb we entered the fort. The most fascinating part of the Peth fort is that the staircase to reach the top is carved inside the rock massif, which is unlike any other forts that I have visited.

We spent some time on the fort and thereafter everybody was eager to get down and catch the bus to Karjat so that we can reach IIT before dinner time.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to all those who made it possible.

All the photos have been taken using the Russian make SLR camera and a tripod borrowed from Sumant Rao (now a Prof. in IDC IIT B), who had then enrolled for a M.Des. programme after this B.Tech. in Aero. We used just one roll of 135 mm film during the whole trek. Thanks Sumant.

The fuel for Trangia was procured from the Chemistry lab. We wanted denatured spirit and we got Reagent Grade (or distilled) methanol/acetone. So thanks to the person who gave it and also to the person who got it.

Thanks to Sadhana Shah for lending us the climbing rope.

Thanks to all the team members for bearing with me during the trek.

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Naneghat to Peth (Dec 1989) – Part I

I did not remember the exact dates after a gap of more than 23 years, but I was sure that we did this trek during the first couple of weeks in the month of December 1989. But a few email exchanges and Geetanjali confirmed that the exact dates were indeed 30th November to 6th December.

After finishing my B.Tech, I had immediately joined for the M.Tech programme at IITB. The activities of the Mountaineering Club of IIT B (Mount Club) had come to an abrupt end after the fatal accident of Sunil Kharkar during the expedition to climb Gangotri peak in May 1988. We did not have access to any of the equipment of the Mount club lying in the stores* of Student’s Gymkhana, which was then shifted to the SAC (Students Activity Centre) opposite H1. Thus, most of the hiking and trekking activities among the students was restricted to small groups of the erstwhile Mount club who were relying on their own resources.

* Here I would like to thank the services rendered by Rockie, the Stores Incharge, for the work that he carried out. Mount Club occupied almost half of the area of the stores and it was his responsibility to ensure that every item was accounted for.

I had a small group going by then who among them had accumulated most of the resources like rucksack, carrymat, stove, vessel, etc. Hence, we were able to continue some of the hiking activities. For this trek, we also had some slings and few carabiners of the mount club lying in our wing and for additional safety we borrowed a climbing rope from Sadhana Shah.

People

Though there were quite a few people who had initially shown interest in the trek, but as final day of the journey approached many of them dropped out. We did not want a large group since it would be difficult to maintain cohesion. We did not want a very small group either since that would mean each of us would have to carry larger loads. Eventually, we were just six of us who embarked on the trek, which on hindsight was a magical number.

Outside the main cave of Naneghat
(L to R – Prabhat Avasare, Yogesh Bhagwat, Manoj Bhataria, Vijay Chariar, Geetanjali Sampemane, Geeta Narlikar)

Of these all except Vijay Chariar were experienced hikers. Probably all the rest had done a basic course in mountaineering. I think Vijay was doing his 2 year Msc Physics or maybe PhD, but he was a tough person and never complained about anything all thoroughout the trek. However none of us were very comfortable with rock climbing, except the bouldering that we do at the Nursery, near Mumbra. But there was no rock patch on the whole of the route, so the climbing rope, few slings and carabiners carried by us thought to be adequate for any safety and rescue operation.

Planning

The path of the trek was planned using the book “Trek the Sahyadris”, by Harish Kapadia, the only and the most valuable resource available to us then. After consultation with the team members, it was decided that we would do a simple trek which would involve any technical climbing. We already knew most of the route from Naneghat to Peth, since some of us had already been to many of these places, so selecting this route was not much of a problem. It was decided that we would halt for the first night at Jivdhan, second at Dhakoba, third at Durgakilla, fourth at Ahupe, fifth at Bhimashankar and the last one at Peth. Thus it was a classical 7-day winter trek.

I updated the First-Aid box, whereas Yogesh and I went on a cycle to fetch the rope from Sadhana’s house at Andheri. We used the pipeline road behind H4 until SEEPZ and thereafter on the regular road to Chakala and then Andheri. It took us just 30-40 minutes to reach Andheri station from H5.

Everybody pitched in with their choices for the menu during the trek. There were many suggestion and the items which made the final cut included Farsan, Gul Poli, Egg Bhurji + Bread, Khaman Dhokla (obviously my suggestion, the only Gujju on the trek), Kheer (from Geetanjali’s notes) and Usal of sprouted moong. Also we had other standard items like Jaggery, Peanuts, Dry coconut, Upma, Poha, Sheera, Khichadi, Milk Powder, Rice, Tea, Coffee, Drinking Chocolate, etc. Yogesh bought the Farsan and Gul Poli from Dadar. Bagga also arranged a masala box from home. The rest of the purchases for the trek were done from Y Point.

All the packing was done in our wing, ie 1st Floor of Wing 6 of H5. Geeta had a good Karimor sack and Trangia (a compact cooking kit from Europe). Prabhat had his own sack. Vijay also managed a nice sack. Yogesh and I got some old Mount club sacks (the big ones with an aluminium frame), which could accomodate a lot of stuff. Geetanjali carried the rope as well as the water jerry-can. But we decided to rotate the loads so that nobody felt that his/her was the heavier than the others. We did not have space for a stove and a kerosene jerry-can, so we decided to use firewood for cooking and supplement it with Geeta’s Trangia stove.

Approach

We started out from IIT early in the morning, walked down the slope of the Kanjur hill and through the Naval Dockyard colony to reach the Kanjurmarg station. In the recent past, the back entry to the Naval Dockyard colony has been stopped.

We had to catch an early train so that we could reach Kalyan bus stand and get a real chance to catch one of the first few buses going via Malshej Ghat. We were able to catch the 6.00 am Ale-Phata bus, probably the first bus going through Malshej Ghat from Kalyan. I remember that the construction of the flyover bridge at the railway crossing of Shahad station was in progress and the alternative path was quite a torture. Thereafter it was a straight forward journey via Ambivali (Century Rayon). After crossing the Kalu river there was hardly any traffic until Murbad. After a brief halt the bus procceded to Tokavade, where all the vehicles halt for a break beginning the torturous climb of the Malshej Ghat. We had typical Maharashtrian snacks like Vada, Misal, Poha, etc and cutting chai (half cup tea) for breakfast.

We got off the bus much before the actual beginning of Malshej Ghat at the “Otur 54” milestone, about 2 km after the village of Vaishakhare. You have to request the bus conductor to drop you at this point or else you have to walk the 2 km distance from Vaishakhare on tarred road. Inspite of the torturous walks that I normally do on such treks, I have always detested walking on a tarred road or even a metalled road.

Day 1 (Naneghat, Jivdhan)

It must have been 9.00 am and then onwards our physical trek began. It is a well laid out path from here to Naneghat, since this was one of the ancient trade routes. Infact the name Naneghat is derived from the Marathi word for coin – “Nane”, which was collected as toll for the use of this ghat or pass. There was, most probably it is still there, a huge pot carved out of rock, in which the coins used to be collected.

The route to Naneghat is fairly easy and it is one of the strongly recommended place for a beginner. Not only because the climb is gentle and path is well trodden, but also the view from the top of the pinnacle “Nanacha Anghtha” is a just reward. One can see the surrounding forts of Jivdhan, Siddhagadh, Dhakoba, Bhairavgadh, etc.

View of Sahyadri ranges north of Nanacha Anghtha

As you near the pass, there are well-laid rock-steps, which are wide enough for a mule or a person riding a horse to easily pass through. So it is possible that there was a lot of traffic through this pass. There are quite a few caves carved in the mountain pass for the travellers to rest and stay. The biggest cave could accomodate almost 40-50 people and it also has some inscriptions in one of the ancient Indian language (probably Brahmi, as mentioned by Prabhat). A lot of cisterns are cut in the rocks to collect the water during the rainy season. These are the only source of water at Naneghat and probably these sources last the rest of the year.We ate our packed lunch (gul-shendana-khobra-farsan) at the caves and quenched our thirst from water stored in the rock-cut cisterns.

View from Nanacha Anghtha - Jivdhan Fort with Vanar Lingi (Khada Parsee) to the right

Thereafter we left for Jivdhan, the guardian fort of Naneghat, our next destination and also the halt for the first night of the trek. During ancient times, whosoever had the control of Jivdhan fort would also control the Naneghat pass, hence in those days Jivdhan must have been a strategically very important fort.

The easier route to Jivdhan is from the village of Ghatghar, which is about an hour walk. Ghatghar literally means “a house on the pass”. There does exist an alternative route to Jivdhan from the face directly facing Naneghat but it is not used often and hence difficult to find.

We used the easier route and after about an hour from Ghatghar we reached the top fairly easily. We dumped our load in the temple/shelter on the fort and then headed for the base of Vanar Lingi. Some people also know it as Khada Parsee, since from a certain angle it resembles a Parsee gentleman with a traditional headgear. The initial route is along the alternative route to Naneghat, so it first descends along a rocky path (probably remains of a once magnificent path to the fort) for almost one third of the height as seen from Naneghat and then it traverses left to the base of Vanar Lingi.

The alternative route to Naneghat keeps on going down steeply and then it enters a forest at the base of Jivdhan. Thereafter it is a flat walk to Naneghat.

Reaching the base of Vanar Lingi is an awesome feeling, because on the other side there is a steep fall into the Konkan. During one of my previous visit, I had seen people rapel on its walls and also do a river crossing using a fixed rope between the Vanar Lingi and Jivdhan. It was nearing sunset, so we had to hurry to return to the fort. While returning to our shelter inside the fort, we gathered some fire-wood for cooking our meals.

Sunset from Jivdhan Fort (on the right side are Machchhindra, Gorkahgadh and Siddhagad)

There was ample water on the fort, but as the night approached the temperatures dropped suddenly and wind had picked up considerable speed. For the first night we had egg-bhurji and bread for the menu. Somebody chopped the onions, whereas somebody beat the eggs. But the addition of masalas was done in consultation. Nobody was sure of the exact amount to be added. Nobody complained about the food so long it was served steaming hot. After the dinner we had our coffee, prepared on the Trangia stove. The sky was brilliantly lit with stars, but we could not do much star gazing due to the strong winds.

Day 2 (Kukdeshwar, Dhakoba)

Sunrise from Jivdhan Fort. (one can see the backwaters of the dam on the Kukdi river)

We got up before much before the sunrise to catch a glimpse of the star-lit sky. Then we prepared our breakfast and tea ready as early as possible.

Soon we were on our way down to Ghatghar. The walk further from Ghatghar was a bit boring since it is a very long (probably three to four hours) walk on a cart track cum jeepable road. After that we left the jeepable road and took a right turn to cross a small pass to enter the valley from where the river Kukdi originates. If we had continued on the jeepable road we would have reached the base of Chavand fort. 

Kukdeshwar Temple

Carvings of the Kukdeshwar Temple

After the descend from the pass, there was another flat walk on a metalled road until we reached the temple of Kukdeshwar. Somewhere near this temple is actual origin of the river Kukdi.

The Kukdeshwar temple is surrounded by a lot of greenery and the stream(river Kukdi) flowing near the temple had cool and refreshing water. Even though it was the month of December, there was still a lot of water in the stream.

We decided to take a break over here amd have our packed lunch of jaggery, peanuts and dry coconuts. The temple itself is very old and dilapidated but it has beautiful carvings. Even then the temple required immediate attention. I was of the opinion that if the temple were to be restored with professional help, it could become one of the area of tourist interest in Maharashtra.

Dhakoba (first view after a short climb from Kukdeshwar)

Our day was not yet over. In the excitement to reach the top, we had completely forgotten to locate the temple on the fort and also the water source. Nobody had been to Dhakoba before and we had to really struggle to find the temple and the water before it became completely dark.

Evening over Jivdhan, Naneghat from top of Dhakoba

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Naneghat trip on a moonless night

Hi, Just got back from a fantastic trip to Naneghat.  Five people from girvihar plus myself. Hired a car and left from thane around 7.30 pm. Reached the OTUR54 signpost around 11 in the night b’cos of a long halt for dinner along the way. Route was pitch dark with a fantastic view of the stars.

All of us had been to naneghat before but ages ago, so we had only dim memories of the path. We knew there would be arrows along the way so we were looking for them throughout.  Another problem was that where there used to be just one track, now there are many routes made by the woodcutters and each seems to be the actual path. We lost our way once and had to retrace back almost half an hour before we got on the track. We knew the track was proper ‘coz the arrows started reappearing.

Reached the  cave around 4 in the morning. Quite a slow climb since all of us were middle-aged except for one guy who was below 30. We had at least four to five halts along the way.

At the top, the cave has been fitted with a wooden grill and door. The floor has been cemented once and is now in the process of being cemented again. Seems like a way of providing work to the villagers of Ghatghar under some Rozgaar yojana.  The walls have been plastered at places where cracks have developed. There seems to be more inscriptions on the floor by recent visitors than the original wall inscriptions .

I was too tired to think of anything but crashing. I had expected to reach early in the morning , have tea/grub and then start back. But there was a change in the plan and Jivdhan was included in the route. So we had to sleep. I had no bedding or extra clothing and though it was not cold when we arrived, by about 6 AM is become quite cold and I got up .

By 9 we had our chai and breakfast and started for Jivdhan. Met the canteen chap whom Makya had mentioned. He guided us till the base of jivdhan climd and then we were on our own. This was a good walk till the actual climb , with shade throughout the way. On the final climb the path is broken in one or two places and some enterprising guy has placed a bolt at one place to help in climbing up. The location of the bolt is such that it gives you a hold at one critical place. all others you have to climb up on your own. This part cannot be done in the monsoon now, at least by inexperienced peple, without a rope. But from what I remember of my visit there (25 years back) there we had done this and all freshies too. Maybe there has been some rock fall and stairs were destroyed.

Anyway, back to the trip. Reached jivdhan top and had a small snack break. then we started up and had  a look at KhadaParsi from the top. magnificient view from this place. the entire range is visible with bhairav, hadsar, chavand, gorakh, harish, nimgiri etc.

After a few minutes of such timepass, we started down and reached the mid point temple. where we stopped for lunch. after lunch we started down. We had informed the driver that we would be down in about an hour or so. We could see the car down at ghatgar. however we took a wrong turn and were hopelessly lost and could see no way down almost halfway round the perimeter. then one of the guys called somebody who know the route and he told us where we had got lost. so we retraced out path and got back on track.

This again was a series of stone cut steps which had broken down in some patches and with some holds carved out in the places where the steps were missing . Again, this is not a route I would like to try in the monsoons.

So finally we were down. Reached Ghatghar , had a quick change of clothes (the others, not me) and piled on into the car for the return trip. Reached home  finally around 2 am on monday morning .

right now, my legs are feeling the strain of the exercise after such a long time.

By the way, the water in the tanks at both Naneghat and jivdhan is excellent though it does not seem so. No need to even boil it.

 

cheers

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Rock climbing sites around mumbai

Guys, I think we missed out on lots during IIT simply b’cos we didn’t interact with outside mount clubs. Last week I found out about a fantastic site just within 10 minutes walk from CBD Belapur bus stand. Place is known as parsik hills and contains a fantastic variety of spots for RC ranging from small boulders to longer pitches. This place has been the usual spot for clubs here especially Girivihar which has been quite active. They have also set up an artificial wall nearby where international competitions are regularly held

Of course, in those days this would have been equivalent to a long hike cum RC since belapur was practically nonexistent and the only way to reach would be to catch a ST bus to Panvel either from Thane or Dadar, a trip which would take at least 3 to 4 hours. No way we could have done much climbing on a one day outing,  so what we could have done was to make a 2 or 3 day trip and combine this with Karnala.

Check out girivihar.org for details

PS. any body in navi mumbai from our group? we can plan some trips to this place. It would be a good picnic spot also for the family

cheerio

naru

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Bhimashankar – 1988 (Part II)

If you thought that all our troubles were over from what I mentioned in Bhimashankar – 1988 (Part I), then you are completely wrong. In fact, Murphy’s Law was equally applicable during our return journey.

 

Bhimashankar Temple

Bhimashankar Temple

 

After finishing the morning chores, we immediately went to see the morning view from the Nagphani, the topmost point of Bhimashankar. Thereafter, we visited the surrounding forest, the main reason Bhimashankar is one of the favourite place for any nature-lover. It is one of the most dense and evergreen forest that you will ever find in Maharashtra. In fact, Maharashtra has a tradition of having forest-temples. Earlier, I had been to Mandhardevi in Satara district.

Thereafter, we went for a darshan of the famous Jyotirlinga and also admired the Panchdhatu Ghanta (Bell made out of a alloy of five metals) brought by Chimaji Appa a few hundred years ago from Vasai, after defeating the Portuguese.

Chimaji Appa chi Ghanta

Chimaji Appa chi Ghanta

We had an early lunch at one of the eateries and started our descent at about 11.00 am. It is a long climb down and we were at the base, Khandas at about 3.30pm, well in time for the 4.30 pm bus.

However, the bus did not arrive until 6.30pm. We were increasingly getting worried. Finally when the bus arrived, they did not allow us to carry our sacks inside, so we had to put them of the carrier on the roof of the bus. We hoped that we do not miss the 8.00pm local from Karjat. If we miss this local then the next local would be atleast one hour away and we would get awfully late to reach IIT. We had promised the Dean that we would be back before 8.30 pm and we were sure to miss the deadline.

It was decided that we would get down at the Karjat level crossing and I would immediately rush to buy the tickets, Bagga would get our luggage from the top of the bus and we meet on the platform. By the time the bus reached the level crossing it was almost 8.00 pm and we could see our train on the platform.

As soon as the bus stopped at the level-crossing, Bagga got out immediately and climb onto the roof of the bus. While I was helping him in getting the luggage down, we heard the horn of the train. I told Bagga to get everybody running and I dashed towards the train. I was just running like crazy and did not bother about what was in the path. It was quite dark and I was focussed towards the train.

I tried to circumvent the level-crossing barrier, but I did not realise that there was a nullah next to the road. I went straight into it. Bagga was following me blindly. He could not help himself and he also fell into it. I think Geetanjali who was following us, saw us disappear in front her eyes. Before she could realise what was happening, she also fell into the nullah.

The rest of the gang was able to avoid the nullah and proceed towards the train. Meanwhile, we ignored the fall and continued our rush to the train and manage to catch the train. Though all of us were in the ladies compartment, that was the least of our worry. I had hurt my knee very badly whereas Bagga and Geetanjali were fine. I could not go on hikes for a few weeks because of the pain in my knee.

We finally reached Kanjurmarg at about 10.00pm and immediately called the Dean from there.

 

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Bhimashankar – 1988 (Part I)

Just after the accidental death of Sunil Kharkar (H8) on the 1988 expedition to Gangotri peak, all activities of the IITB mount had come to a standstill. We could not get permission to go for a simple one day hike. Shirish Bondre (H9) was the new Mount sec and he was trying his best to convince the IITB authorities to permit us for some restricted activities. I was the Wildlife sec then and I thought that if this were to continue for long then the very existence of Mount Club in IITB would be at peril. So I decided to announce a two-day hike to Bhimashankar, since this was part of an annual activity of the Wildlife Club.

Bhimashankar is a beautiful place with a thick evergreen tree cover and you could be rewarded with the sightings of the Blue Mormon (largest butterfly in Maharashtra), lots of birds and if you are lucky, the Giant Squirrel (Shekroo), the state animal of Maharashtra. You could see the fluorescent moss growing on the tree barks as well. It is famous because of the origin of the river Bhima, which is known as Chandrabhaga at Pandharpur. It also has one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. I had been there many times and I knew all the routes to and from Bhimashankar. It is a bird-watcher’s paradise and a nature lovers delight. It is also a strenuous climb of about four hours. But the view from the top Nagphani, especially at the sunset, with the sun going behind the Matheran range is an ample reward.

Some students complained to then DOSA Prof. M. J. Patni that we are trying to promote hiking activities under the guise of Wildlife Club. He knew me well since he was also the Chairman Cult, before he became the DOSA. So he called me and asked me to get the NOC from each of the participants’ parent/local guardian. We agreed and accordingly the NOC of six (or maybe seven) people were submitted and we got the permission. We promised the DOSA that we would be back in the campus before 8.00 pm the next day and we would immediately inform him upon our return.

I think there were about four boys and two girls. But I am not sure, I can recollect only five names  – Manoj Bhataria (H5), Yogesh Bhagwat (H5),  Nilesh Parmar (H8),  Geetanjali Sampemane (H10) and Maneesha Joshi (H10).

On the previous evening I had issued all the necessary equipments from the Student’s Gymkhana stores in-charge Rocky.  It included sacks, stove, cooking vessels, kerosene can, water jerry can, one rope, some carabiners, torches, binoculars. We made some food purchases for the dinner as well as the breakfast  to be prepared on the hike. We also got the pack lunch of Bread+Butter+Eggs from the hostel. As per the standard timing for any hike, it was decided to assemble at the YP gate at 4.00 am.

In the early morning, I had my weekly bath and began to get into my hiking attire – Dull coloured clothing, wind cheater, hunter shoes, etc. Yogesh Bhagwat (Bagga), who was my wingmate was ready and he was waiting for me. He could see that I was struggling to put my foot inside the hunter shoes. I had not used the shoes since I returned from Himankan in May and now it was end of September. I thought they had become stiff since I had not used for a long time.  Somehow I managed to put them on and we started our walk towards YP, where other people had already assembled. The shoes were paining a lot and it slowed down my movements. I thought that after sometime, the shoes would become loose and the pain would subside.

We were getting late for the first Karjat local which arrives at 4.56 am at the Kanjurmarg station. So I asked Bagga to go ahead and buy the tickets and meet us on the platform. Rest of us negotiated the slope to reach the Naval Dockyard Colony in front of the Huma/Heena theatre (now it is a Fame Multiplex, owned by Reliance). We had gone by that route numerous times (for hikes as well as for the late night movies) and hence it was quite familiar. Today that route is completely out of bounds.

When we reached the Kanjurmarg station, we realised that we had missed the Karjat local and now we have to wait for the next Karjat local which was due in about 30 minutes. That local did not turn up since it was cancelled, so we had no option but to go to Thane station and catch the fast local. Meanwhile, I was wondering if we were to miss the first bus (8.15 am) from Karjat to Khandas, our base to reach Bhimashankar. So finally, we reached Karjat and to our surprise the first bus was still there and so we were very much relieved. However, the bus was packed and we could not manage to get ourselves any seats.

While standing in the bus, I realised that my feet were paining a lot and it was becoming a bit unbearable. So as soon as there was sitting space was available on the floor of bus, I removed my shoes and check them. Normally, I were shoes no. 9 or sometimes no. 8 for RC sessions. To my horror, the shoes that I was wearing were of no. 6. I thought I was making a mistake, so I asked Bagga to cheack and he also confirmed it. I do not have any idea as to how these shoes landed in my room. They were lying in my room ever since my return from Himankan. Now that I realised that these are not my shoes, I could not muster the courage to wear them again. I was wearing them for almost five hours and I had already done quite a lot of walking in them.

I removed the slippers, that I normally carry, from my sacks and decided to do the remaining hike in slippers. I was aware of the perils of doing the hike on slippers and I warned myself to be extra careful and not injure my toes. There was the added danger of slipping, for their name is slippers. My worst fear was, if the straps of the slipper were to break during the hike what would I do.

Anyway, we reached Khandas at about 11.00 am and started our climb. There is a villager popularly known as Mama (Uncle) and he works as a Vatadya (Guide) for hikers and pilgrims. He greeted us and enquired whether we require his services. We declined and proceeded. He asked us to use the Ganpati Ghat route, since the ladder on the Shidi (ladder) route was under repair. If I remember correctly, he had high regards for Sunil Sawant (Chotya), since he had once helped the villagers repair the ladder on the Shidi route to Bhimashankar.

So we had no option but to take the Ganpati Ghat route which is a bit boring but it is not steep. After the first climb, there is a huge traverse (almost one hour), before we start climbing again. However during this traverse you can get a good view of the Padar Killa (or Kalavantin cha Mahal) on the right hand side. There are numerous streams on this traverse and we have our pack lunch sitting next to one such stream.

Once you near the Thakur Pada on the first plateau, under a mango tree, the path from the Shidi route joins the Ganpati Ghat. Thereafter, there is only one route. You have a steep climb and on this climb, one of the girl, probably Manisha, was completely exhausted and she was not able to carry her load, so I volunteered to carry her sack as well for the climb. Thereafter, there is a brief exposed traverse to enter into the forest on the second plateau. This is best place to see the Shekroo. I had seen them during my first hike, but I do not remember if we saw it during this hike. Once again, there is a steep climb and when you start thinking that the climb is never going to end, you realise that you are already on top.

On the top, as you walk on the path ahead, there is a water tank to your right and further behind is the abandoned house, our destination.

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