EXPLORE

havelock (2)-01

Explore!
Wander into nature, that is vast and deep;
Explore for it teaches us great things.
Climb the peaks and dive deep into the ocean,
for that is the victory of mind and soul.
Explore and let all go,
Don’t hold onto anything;
for it was never yours.
Explore and hear the swooshing sound of trees;
for they speak the language of love.
Explore, for it is you to reveal the secrets of nature.
Go on, move on, run into, swim fast,
laugh along, cry hard!
Be calm, be at peace.
Explore and you will know;
for what you are meant to be.

Advertisements

On the hilltop of Naneghat

Summer’s ending; monsoon is on the cusp of breaking rains. This period of transience is just a delight to trek, where the clouds cover the sky but aren’t showering; an abrupt cool breeze gives you relief. In such weather a night trek to Naneghat was arranged by Small Steps Adventures.

IMG_20160521_190918246
Naneghat from the base

 

Naneghat is a mountain pass in Sahyadri ranges of Maharashtra near Junnar, Pune district; it draws its name from the tradition that a coin needed to be submitted to pass this route during Satvahana reign (source Wikipedia).It was kind of tollbooth.

We started our journey from Kalyan at 5.00 pm and reached the base of the hill at around 6.30 pm. Our group was of 23 trekkers, some new, some old, some friends and some known. What breaks the ice? As I always say, a small introduction session. With it we started moving forward as Small Steps adventures trek leaders took their position now along with volunteers, Oh yes their team is growing. Moving forward catching up with friends and other trek mates, surrounded by trees on all sides and a distant view of pinnacle was visible.

IMG_20160521_190925871
Starting the trek

It had started becoming dark and torches were lit; it was full moon and the visibility was quite good. Even though it was end of summer temperature was high and we were drenched in sweat while trekking, taking halts to hydrate ourselves frequently. Halfway up the trek the rocky patch had started, it was a waterfall route. There are few water tanks on the route some are dry and some are filled. One of the great things about the forts in history has been the architectural planning. It has been a subject of study and can be applied into modern times.
After few hours of trekking we reached a narrow passage between two rocky structures having caves within them. This narrow passage way had its own beauty, it was kind of like opening to a new world. The caves can be used to reside but we had planned to stay on the top in tents.

WhatsApp-Image-20160524 (11)
Moonlight through narrow passage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WhatsApp-Image-20160524
Narrow Passage in daylight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some villagers live on the top and they have their own farms. Actually the top can be reached directly through vehicle from Junnar highway, but what fun that would be? Few of us went ahead with villagers to locate the place of camping. Rest stayed back near the cave for some time.

As we reached the top it is a flat surface extending long. Suddenly cool breeze had started flowing; we were drenched in sweat and the blowing wind made us feel colder. The temperature at the top was nothing like at the base, it was cool out here, we were all exhausted by the trek, but this cool weather re-energized us. We refreshed ourselves at the villager’s place and had dinner. The hot dinner served made us remember our home.

After dinner the trek leaders started pitching tents and also made others learn how to do it. This was a perfect camping night, The starry sky and full moon, cool breeze, it all seemed heavenly especially the moonlight stroll on the top felt like should have been never ending. Done with the pitching tent some went immediate to sleep but others were still in jaunty mood. So we all sat together and played the traditional all-time favourite game of ‘antakshri’; well what more can give joy to just sing songs till late night. Late night at around 1.45 am the trek leaders called for everyone to rest as we had to start descend early next morning. But again few of us weren’t in the mood to sleep actually including trek leaders. Staying up more lately we were just conversing and gazing around the charismatic view in moonlight.

 

WhatsApp-Image-20160524 (7)
Moonlight Camping at Naneghat

The surrounding ranges were also visible the pinnacles of them looked like castles built around. Well,

Such a beautiful nature it is,
Rising up high.
These mountains are mansions of the sky.
We rested a while gazing into night,
filled with stars and full moon,
eclipsing when the dark clouds of rains moved.
These moments speak to us silently
without words but wisdom of nature’s simplicity.

Naneghat is famous for star gazing; people often come here to observe stars through telescopes.

The words above depicted the early morning scene only changing the fact that instead of moon the sun was in the sky and clouds were sometimes eclipsing it. The dawn had broken but the nature was same only now more illuminated by sunlight.

Naneghat has become a sightseeing place, there is already construction going on railings are being fit on the edges.

WhatsApp-Image-20160524 (8)
Early Morning

 

WhatsApp-Image-20160524 (9)
Sights at naneghat

We wrapped our tents, freshened up had a nice delicious breakfast; got set and ready to descend back. Well photos here and photos there; clicks here and clicks there; selfies from this and that angle follows the trait of every trek. Done with the photos we arrived at the cave, from here then moved downwards. We had decided to descend before noon as it could get very hot then. So everyone just descended on the same trail of climbing, following the trek leaders. We were already feeling the heat now, and again were drenched in sweat.

Conversing and chit chatting we descended in 3 hours and reached the base at about 11.30 am. We were completely exhausted now and just wanted to sleep. Everyone arrived group by group put our bags in the Jeep and started the return journey.

Small Steps Adventures:
A group formed by 5 (Yogi, Sagar, Ravi, Sushant and Prashant). The purpose of group is to lead adventures activities into the mystic nature and show people the wondrous beauty and thrill.
It has been active since 1 year now and has conducted various events successfully; now has paced to keep events on every weekend.

For more photos, follow the link
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1207373602646906.1073741878.959029294148006&type=3

Technical Details

Base:
Vaishakhare (2 hours from kalyan)

How to reach:
From Kalyan local transport like ST bus is available till base.(not an official stop).Private vehicle is preferable

Height:
Around 2500 ft.

 

 

 

 

Bhairavgad and Lens

When on a trekking spree, you really don’t care what season it is. I was in office again thinking of what to plan for weekend; rather Sagar my friend from Small Steps had messaged me for the trek of Bhairavgad. It was a difficult trek and heat in this summer is killing. But still when something calms you down and soothes other things don’t matter, so decision made Bhairavgad trek.

I am going to put a different experience in this blog, it is kind of story that I lived on the trekking day.
But before we move to that some information about Bhairavgad.

Bhairavgad is one of the challenging treks in Maharashtra. It is also a fascinating trek. The structure of this fort is different than others that are typically found in Maharashtra. The fort has a geographical dyke structure. The pinnacle of the fort is perfect quadrangle structure. The climb to this pinnacle is tricky.

Reaching the Base Village.

So moving on to my story. We started from kalyan at around 11 pm on 8th of April by jeeps. Reached the base village Moroshi at around 2:00 am in the morning. We were going to start early morning so rested for a while. At around 5.30 am we got up and were ready for the trek. We were around 27. Besides adventure and sightseeing such activities are platform to meet new people, see new faces, get to know each other and hence trek always starts with introductions.

IMG_20160410_062542229
Bhairavgad trek group

The Start of the trek and lens’s intervention

We started the trek, as we did one of my friend, Sneha gave me her camera bag which had lens in it. She has this DSLR camera. I carried the bag, we all started to walk towards the ascend area. I was just looking at the marvelous ranges of mountains ahead. Something happened than, something moved in the lens bag. I thought some insect might have gone inside. So I tried to open it; and I was in shock. The lens talked. Yes you heard it right, the lens talked it said “What am I doing sitting in the bag when such great distant view is in front of me. Pass me to the camera person.” I said what the hell is wrong with me, did I trek too much. I was feeling fuzzy. So I mixed with group and started chatting with my trek mates.

IMG_20160410_063354975
Distant view of the fort

As we moved on we arrived at the spot of ascend. The lens again said to me. “Why don’t you pass me to person with camera, I am missing it.” I said “shut up” it was a reflex. But the thing is I realized that I talked back. Now this feels different. Maybe I am sleep deprived. I thought I will just trek and keep the conversation to myself.

 

As we were climbing up; the sky was getting brighter and the light shining on the great ranges around us. The trek is easy to ascend. Aside from the fact that lens talked with me, I was enjoying the trek. Nothing like early morning trail in jungle.; Humans have populated themselves so much that we have forgotten to appreciate the beauty and significance of other species that have equal right on this planet. As I was climbing again it happened “Wow what a great place to be, you know what humans have eyes and eyes capture the images.” I said “yes, I know that being a student of science I understand that much.” Now I just replied I did not care that I was speaking back, I did not want to miss a great trek thinking that some stupid lens of a friend is talking to me.

The lens said “You know where humans store the captured images in brain; in the memory.” I replied “yup that is how it works generally” Lens said “tell me are you also student of technology?” I said “yes very enthusiastic about it” Lens “Do you  know how it functions with us camera and their lenses”
I said “ a person captures the image through lens and then it goes into the memory of that camera; aha I get your point you are separated from the camera; Sorry wait”
So finally I asked “Hey Sneha do you need this lens, you know very nice views out here you might want to us e this one with larger resolution.” She said “Not now re, I am not capturing long shots, maybe when we will reach further ahead or top” I said “ok”. Madness it is when I looked down on the lens in the bag and said “so you are stuck with me for a while then” lens replied “hmm.”

IMG_20160410_063204035
Jungle trail

Ascend to a Plateau and lens’s philosophy

Ascend till a plateau of pinnacle base is pleasant. Trees surrounding us all along; People were enjoying the distant views and of course clicking photos as much as they can. I too took my phone out clicked several pictures, selfies. “ You are boring me look at that range, look how great it looks, look how it is getting curved in the edge rounding itself on the corner at least capture that, even if I am not connected to my camera; you should at least take such photos in your cell phone.” The lens advised rather it sounded like an instruction. I said “yeah ok, I will do that, but stop instructing I know when to click” Lens “Ohh do you really, here I am out and you will get best clicks for the lifetime” I said “Shut up, you are some stupid lens and I am not that into photography also, this is just some clicks I am taking because I like.” The lens “Hey you are stuck with me and I am stuck with you, Life is unfair get used to it.”

IMG_20160410_063558003 - Copy
Taking group pics and lens bag hanging around me

 

Well when a lens throws a philosophy what can one do. I moved ahead with my group, I hope that they did not notice me talking to a lens. Few rock patches and we were at the base of pinnacle, the dyke structure that I described earlier. “At least now she will ask for me, you know I am stuck in this bag for so long, I don’t know when the last time clicks were taken through me was?” Lens expressed displeasure. I said “life is unfair you know.” I punched the air for throwing philosophy back at the lens. Stupid huh!!

 

IMG_20160410_073401980
Ascending the plateau

The pinnacle stands tall on the plateau, the two rock structures are firmly fixed in it. Some geographical disruptions long ago may have caused such structures to form. The plateau also offers all around view of hill ranges; also various types of floras can be found here. We had breakfast here on the plateau, it was getting brighter now, Uneven hill ranges following a trail can be seen from the plateau. These hills, these mountains were the guardians of Maratha Empire. The Maratha’s understood it what significance the nature plays if forming a kingdom hence they used this against the Mughals and Adilshah and rose to prominence of power. “Yes right you must be, Man on earth can only be powerful if he understands importance of nature, rather than destroying it; he should nurture it.” Lens expressed. Me in shock again “now what are you hearing what I am speaking in my mind also.” Lens replied “well you spoke too loudly.” I was amazed.

IMG_20160410_073953813
The Pinnacle and Geographical dyke struture

 

Ascending to the the Pinnacle’s base and lens’s dialogues

Done with breakfast we moved ahead, for the climb to pinnacle. Lens said “Are you observing the views, you are busy making fun of each other” I said “yes I am; but why does that has to stop me from having fun.” Lens “you won’t understand, it’s a lens perspective.” I said “yes but I am human, I am dynamic, I can do many things at a time.”  Lens replied “Yeah yeah be proud of that dynamism, that is why now a days people are living in concrete jungles and have to find nature to enjoy it, great.” I said “You are an human invention, of human dynamism.” Lens said “Yes but I grabbed the understanding the significance of nature more because I was invented to focus and capture it.” I replied “Every human being is not selfish, many understand the importance; that is why we all are here, rather than spending weekends in parties.” Lens “Yeah Ok so concentrate on views. Humans are so selfish they want everything for themselves. Have you ever looked at these sights selflessly try it from lens’s point of view.”

 

I was like what the hell is going on why I am having discussion with the lens. People had become quiet around me, I thought everyone noticed the madness of me. No the climb had become difficult, one had to climb from either slippery soil, or slippery rocks, well for me rocks were comfortable so I took that route. I don’t know why but I said to the lens “Shut up now for a while otherwise I’ll handover you.” Lens replied “Ok.”

IMG_20160410_084846654_HDR
Ascending towards the rock strucutre

The steep slope here is difficult to climb from both ways; one has to take good grip of legs and hands to climb up. If the grip loses a little also one could slip down; so all of us were concentrating on that. Taking grips, holding each other we managed to climb this patch, and arrived at a small pathway rounding the big rock structure. As I turned back I said to myself “wow what a view from here.” The lens says “yeah it is mesmerizing isn’t it? get me on the camera for this one.” So I asked my friend to put on this lens and take a pic. Finally the lens was put on the camera and few snaps were clicked from it. Again the bag was handed back to me and I was like “Ohh again with me huh!”

IMG_20160410_091031
Cold water tank near the rock structure

Here there was a water tank, so we all filled our bottles, as the water tank was in the cave; water was cold. It felt so relieved to drink cold water in hot sunny day. Now the heat was increasing and we all were sweating. Moving ahead we climbed to reach a vertical narrowing going down and again up towards the base of quadrangular pinnacle. Before going there we had to take the help of rope because it was narrow pathway; and also had to wear equipment to insert the rope. So geared up with technical stuff we walked down and reached another base. Here the sun shone directly on us and slowly everyone was arriving. Till then we sat at the base and waited. Sitting in between two giant rock structures, we were gauging how to climb the vertical rock in front of us, of course there was enough space to take grips and even broken steps in some place but still felt thrilling enough to scare some people.

IMG_20160410_091859
The Pinnacle from Side view

Lens says “huh seems like would be fun at the top” I said “maybe I’ll keep you here don’t if I could manage you to take up, it is risky, something may happen to you.” Lens says “shut up, I have been here to reach there; it is my goal, my purpose and my life to reach the top.” I said “sounds like me.” It was hot now my trek mates were engaged in discussions ranging from fort’s history to each other’s love life.

Lens says to me “What great structure it is, I could observe it from far away.” I replied “yes you would observe from far away because you are high resolution lens, see the difference between human eyes and you.” Lens says “yeah yeah you invented me but in this trek I have been only used once why bring me if not to use?” I said “You are a precise instrument; that should be used in precise moment, if used on every other occasion what is difference between you and normal lens or camera.”  The lens says “I have fallen in love with this structure and nature. What do you think?” I said “Yeah nature is a wonder, inexplicable beauty; it really makes you feel great, touches soul.” Lens says “Love nature, Love people and Love yourself.” I was like again philosophy, what is in this lens God hiding.

IMG_20160410_104129704_HDR
Way to climb the pinnacle

Climb to Pinnacle and lens’s goal

Finally everyone arrived and one by one we started climbing the pinnacle vertically, with help of broken steps. The climb here is all the way around the edge, so one has to be really careful and always leaning to take support of the rock. This continues till the top. We reached a cave where all the bags we kept all the bags. Then climbed further only one or two people had taken camera with them, I carried the lens. We climbed further ahead and arrived at another Cave, this one was bigger than previous one. As we were climbing the steep rock many trees were covering the path. Finally we reached the top with zig zag climbing; and were standing on the pinnacle.

IMG_20160410_102800267
Climbing the pinnacle
IMG_20160410_102755617
Climbing one by one

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_20160410_114711
Broken steps at some points

Oh what a great feeling it is to reach the top of something!! The lens spoke “come on fast put me on the camera and click some great snaps.” I handed over the lens and my friend clicked the distant mountain ranges, we had arrived on the pinnacle in the noon when sun was in middle of the sky and it was hot out there. But viewing the world from the top soothes you. So we sat here for a while and moved down.

IMG_20160410_121218
On the top of the Pinnacle
IMG_20160410_122502
On the top in Style

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climbing, Rappelling down and satisfied lens.

The lens was again handed over to me. We reached down and from appoint just above cave rappelled some 40 feet down to the floor of the cave. Then climbed down the rock by steps again. Now we were all exhausted and tired. Lens said “Wow great view have been captured goals accomplished.” I said “easy your goals are; mine I haven’t even started.” Lens said “Well humans are complicated and they make things complicated; try simple and you’ll achieve whatever you want.” I said “wow seriously what are you lens or a quote diary.” Lens said “whatever you want it to be, I am your invention after all, if you perceive me just a device than I am just a lens, if you perceive me a device that focuses on world and captures it then maybe you could learn more from me.” I was just stunned by that little speech of this lens I just gave thumbs up to it.

IMG_20160410_142300
Rappelling down
IMG_20160410_133729_1
Climbing and rappelling down

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trekking back to the base village and mystery of lens unresolved

We descended the rock structures and arrived in shadowy area of Jungle and had lunch, everyone was so hungry and thirsty that we just ate all the things that we had packed. After lunch we rested for a while and moved towards the base village. I was around 5.30 pm in the evening where we reached the base village again.

IMG_20160410_161217371
Journey back to base village

I handed the lens bag back to sneha to put in her bag. I told her that the lens was talking to me. She said yes it does sometimes. I threw a line from harry Potter book “is this real or is it happening in my head.”
She replied with same reply of Albus Dumbledore “Of course it is happening in your head but why can’t it be real.” I just nodded and went to refresh myself.

Back journey

Refreshed and having water melon brought by trek leaders, we were ready for the back journey to Kalyan, where we parted our ways in our own directions.

What an experience it was to trek this fort!
I was in conversation with lens but it does mean that I did not mix with the trekking group, rather this group of trekking was great and I found many new friends here. Everyone was enthusiastic about trekking and each one of us enjoyed it to the fullest.

Technical Details

Region:
Near Malshej Ghar.
Height:
Aprox. 3350 ft.
Base village:
Moroshi

Distance:
From Mumbai approx 150 km (one can reach Kalyan by train and from                                         here private vehicle till base village is preferable; distance around 60                                           kms from kalyan).
From Pune approx 170 km.

How to reach:
Local transport is available till ale phata. But Private vehicle is                                                         preferable to reach the base village.

 

 

 

 

 

Lingana Expedition

Trekking expeditions are adventurous. Some are done for just fun, some are done to explore new things, some are done to view the nature from the top; but some are done to challenge yourself, dare yourself. Such is the trekking expedition of Lingana. Expedition of Lingana personifies trekking; it brings in you the mentality of facing the challenge right up front.  It is one of the toughest treks in Sahyadri’s of Maharashtra.

So here I was in office on Friday in dilemma whether to go for this trek or not. At that time I did not have much idea about Lingana. I came home still in confusion, the bus was going to leave from Panvel at night 11:00 pm. I had my dinner and suddenly decided to go for the trek. It was an impulse that I should do it, anyways being at home on weekend’s is waste of time. So I called trek leader to inform that I am coming.

Packed my bags and left for the trek. The bus came around at 11.30. We were to reach the base village in the morning. Lingana is situated in the Mahad region. We reached the base village on time that is at 5.30 am. The trek was planned accordingly that we would reach the top at about 4:00 pm and descend and reach back to base village at about 8:00 pm in the evening, have dinner there and start the return journey.

Start of trek

So we started the trek at 6:00 am in the morning, it was still dark out there. There is 45 minutes’ walk till the ascend starts. Stream of water was flowing down here. The ascend is easy till a plateau from where the pinnacle is clearly visible. We had the introduction session here, after all we are all here to form connections.

IMG_8587
Lingana maachi, introduction

The pinnacle of Lingana is marvelous it is exactly like the shape of Shiv Linga; hence the name, In Chatrapati Shivaji’s Kingdom it used to be a prison for criminals. The prisoners were taken here and put in caves and left there; the ladders used to be removed so they could not escape, they had to find water and food on their own.

IMG_8594
The pinnacle of Lingana exactly as Shiv Linga.

We climbed further to reach the base of pinnacle. Here we rested for a while and had breakfast. Bread butter, with cheese, mayonnaise sauce and jam is such energizing. Small Steps Adventures had taken support of a technical team of Maharashtra trekkers for the trek. The technical team had taken its guidance from one of famous trekkers of Maharashtra and the person who had climbed the pinnacle without any equipment Hira Pandit Sir.

IMG_8628
Climbing to the base of the Pinnacle

The Climb

So anyways the technical team then went ahead for setting up the climb, the free climber went ahead and clamped the rope. We also geared up with equipment provided like harness, carabiner and figure of 8.

The first patch was fairly simple to climb. The rope was all the time tied to us that passed through our carabiner hence enough precautions and safety was taken.

IMG_8644
The first climbing patch

 

As it was a pinnacle climb we were always on the edge even if the climb was not totally vertical.

The second patch was also not that difficult as one could take grips on rock and climb it. After the 2nd patch there was slippery soil that had to be crossed. I remember this because while climbing this part I caused a lot of soil to erode and disperse which caused team leader to caution me that other people are climbing.

After the second patch, there was a small plateau and vertically rounding it off there was a cave and water tank.

The third patch was a difficult climb. The rock was flat and one had to completely depend on rope to climb, I slipped many times here but eventually could climb. Further after climbing one was still on edge and climb further a rock by taking grip.

IMAG0311
The third and most difficult climb.

The fourth patch was also quite difficult one; one had to properly take the grip: one grip on rock and one grip on rope; this climb was totally on hands grip as there was no space for legs to support. Well when you have decided determination is all you need.

IMG_8747
Pinnacle after 4th climbing patch

After this there was a narrow path leading to another climb. This patch the fifth one of climbing was fairly simple one could easily take the help of rock crevices to support palms and legs and climb up

Now the last patch of climbing; the sixth patch. We had ascended on a circular flat surface and ahead was vertical rock to be climbed. The trick here was to first climb from one side and then climb across. Further up on broken steps and one has climbed the top.

IMG_8672
the last climb
IMG_8690
Climbing on the top.

On the Pinnacle’s top.

What a feeling it is to have climbed the pinnacle. Viewing from the top of mountain is something of an inexplicable experience. It was around 5 pm when we reached the top. We could see the sunset. In front of Lingana is Raigad fort, great, big rectangular structure of it can be seen. The sun was setting beyond it into the horizon. As the darkness followed the sunset, millions of stars were visible in the sky. It was so clear that we could even spot satellites encircling.

IMG_8748
View from the top
IMG_8685
Anothe breathtaking view from the top.

The 3 rappelings

Soon the technical team  came collecting all its equipment and rope and started the activity of setting up rappelling. The rappelling anchor has already been fixed into the ground their on the top we rested here, we were tired by climbing for whole day. The first rappeller had gone down and made arrangements. One by one we started rappelling. The descend had 3 rappelling spots, the first one was of about 400 ft. Imagine that. It was already dark and rappelling down the 400 ft rock is actually a thrill, a fear factor exists even if one has worn all the equipment.

One by one we rappelled down. When my turn came it was already midnight. We had to rappel till a point where rope length ended and the next rope was tied with technical knot further ahead on a narrow plateau which had extended itself from the hill like a nose.

After the first rappelling we were sitting on a rock on the edge, then moving further ahead went on plateau. The plateau was narrow with valley on sides. The soil on it slippery. We waited on plateau till everyone rappelled down. It was such a thrill to wait here, as we were on the edge. The wait till morning was like eternal. After that when last person rappelled we had to pull the rope down.

The rope was pulled and the technical team started setting up rope for next rappelling which was immediate. We sitting on edge went ahead and rappelled as soon the set up was complete. This was 150 feet rappelling. After rappelling down we arrived on a big plateau as big as large field. This was relief from sitting on edge to on a flat surface. It was already 5 am

The grass had grown tall till knees here. We found a place under a tree and slept till dawn broke. Then next rappelling of about 70 ft.  Again we went ahead and alighted on a narrow pathway laterally running through the hill. We rested till all others came. There was a cave and tank of water here. We refreshed ourselves from it filled our bottle with it and were ready for descend.

The descend and back hourney

The descend surprisingly was easy, just had to follow a trail of path in woods and grass. After the climb and rappel it was a pleasant experience of descend some relief from constantly being geared up for rappel. We climbed down in about 2 to 3 hours and reached the base village. We freshened ourselves in the pond of water nearby and had lunch in village at villagers home. After the lunch we packed ourselves and sat in the bus back to the city.

IMG_20160228_132038
Joyous faces after succesful completion of expedtion

Looking at the pinnacle from down we couldn’t believe that we had climbed and came down successfully.  The technical team that lead us was great, they were experienced and had done this trek many times also the encouragement from Small steps adventures leaders (Sagar and Yogi) helped us complete this trek successfully.

Technical details

Region:                Mahad
Base Village:      Paane
Transport:          ST is available from Mumbai (150 km) and Pune (130 km) till Mahad.
Private vehicle is preferable.

Height:                3000 ft (914mtrs) from sea level.

A Getaway Trek to Harihar Fort

Trekking season is coming to an end, hot sunny days are here. But you don’t want to give it up because you have now fallen into love with the treks. Exploring those twisting, curving and unknown paths have become part of your life. Then what do you do? Well technically 2 options are available trekking in night; or early morning. Sahyadri ranges in Maharashtra consist of more than 500 forts. What a kingdom it must have looked when these forts would have been in great conditions, structurally proper. Sadly most of them are dilapidated now.

Some are difficult to climb and some are easy. One such fort is Harihar fort, Built near Nasik region of Maharashtra, the fort used to be watch tower for neighbourhood areas. Easy and rich in nature trek is Harihar fort; Small Steps Adventures had arranged it on 20th march 2016.

IMG_20160320_071116446_HDR
Harihar Fort

 

Start of Journey

We started on 19th night, 11:00 pm kasara train from CST which reached to kasara at around 1.30 am.

IMG_4703
Train Journeys are ice breakers

 

 

 

IMG_4716
Journeys are starters of getting introduced

3 trax from kasara to the base village of Harihar were arranged. It was a journey of about 2 hrs. The journey in trax with songs takes you to another world.

Reaching the base village we rested for a while in school till the dawn broke. It was a starry sky with millions of them visible, gazing them we awaited for a dawn. A walk down the road gazing the stars is not a leisure that can be enjoyed everyday.  As the morning light broke, the brightness from the mountains arrived on the earth, we packed our bags, and got ready for the trek.  Walking through the small village and filling our bottles with water from the well; our ascend started.

Ascend to the fort

The huge rock structure of fort can be seen during ascend, It stretches horizontally curving on the edges. Ascending on treks in early morning is always a pleasure. The early sun rays illuminating the earth with golden light reflecting on us through trees and rocks, how calm; how peaceful and what different feeling than an early morning of metro urban cities. World is simple here.

IMG_1499
Below the fort we capture our image; for the journey unravels ahead

Nature never let us miss the scope of capturing the moments of its existence, Treks like these converge the nature which exists timeless with the technological advances of humankind, well  heavy the sentence may sound but I am talking of camera. Capturing such moments into that box is just making these moments memorable.

IMG_4755
Selfie captured.

So the clicking starts.

We reach a plateau which is at the middle of base and top of the fort.

The fort is actually built on this plateau. The fort from this point looks like a giant rook, placed on the chess board of earth, standing heavy, balanced, and guarding its kingdom. From here one has to start climbing rocks, which is quite easy, but always precaution is insisted.

IMG_20160320_074802258_HDR
Reaching the plateau below the fort.
IMG_4817
Here we are, capture us.
IMG_4790
Through the lens into the screen

 

The tricky steps

After few climb, there are narrow steps carved on a quite vertical surface of rock.

 

 

 

IMG_4944
A Rook stands tall as a castle to guard.

 

Climbing the steps we reached the door of the fort. The door is coloured saffron, which looks quite distinguished in dark coloured rocks of the fort. Walking through the door, we moved forward, into a tunnel which needs to climb across and Zig- Zag, to reach a plateau of fort. Here several ponds of water can be found. Most of them were dry because of summer season.

C360_2016-03-20-09-12-01-915
The twisty stairs
IMG-20160321-WA0017
From the wall of saffron door

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up ahead in the distance saffron flag of Maratha Empire stands tall and unfurled, flying high. To reach there one has to climb further. Climbing is little tricky because of slippery soil and then a rock patch. It can be climbed from 2 sides one is quite easy and simple another needs a little use of technique.

 

IMG_1652
On the top Flag unfurling behind us

Climbing this we reached the top of the fort, the peak. The top is like a table flat, and in centre a flag is unfurling. What happens when you reach the top of something? Wonderment in mind then coming back to senses, one wants it to be captured so lots of clicks, a look around from the top down the hill into the nature.

IMG_20160320_091941724
View from the top
IMG_20160320_091924925
Panoramic Nature

 

 

 

 

 

Descending the fort

IMG_20160320_102958660
It has journeyed with me. Personified it may tell great tales.

 

Spending some time here we climbed down to plateau near the dry pond. We had trekked fast, starting at 6.00 am it was just 9.30 am.

Rested their for a while, with some yummy breakfast of bread, butter jam, mayonnaise sauce and peanut butter, with khakras and biscuits, a wonder treat in wonderful nature. The descend was also quite simple, same route as we ascended, we carried out another activity of cleaning the fort, collecting dumped bottles and plastic wrappers, an initiative by Small Steps Adventures. The sun was now shining bright. The heat could be felt now, caps and glares, and a quiet descend. We reached back to base village at around 12 pm.  Everyone was little tired and exhausted. Perfect time for lunch. Thepla and pickle what else does one need in life.

Back Journey with halt at Trimbekashwar

Immediately after the lunch we packed our bags and sat in our respective Trax for a destination to Trimbekashwar. From Trimbekashwar back to kasara and from kasara; train journey to Thane. Well exhausted from the happening day everyone slept in train. On Thane station we bid adieu to each other leaving behind an memorable experience for lifetime.

Trekking moments are inexplicable; every moment can be cherished throughout our life. These become tales to be told. These moments form lifetime friendships and relationships. Pulling legs and having fun is part and parcel of treks at least with SSA, the innocence of it forges great bonds that are stronger than before. Treks like these make you feel that you have known these people from many years even though you have just met them. Trekking is great activity, it is one of those things where body and mind are completely synchronized, a complete balance. Makes one mentally and physically refreshed.

IMG-20160321-WA0034
Captured trekking moment

 

Technical Details:

Harihar Fort: Watch tower on the route of Maharashtra to Gujarat during Maratha Empire
Height: Around 3700 ft.
Base village: Nirugpada
Travel: From Mumbai reach Kasara via Local Train; From Kasara travel towards Base village                via available trax.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trekking Down the Valley of Sandhan

Some treks are adventurous, some are thrilling, some terrific and some are tough; but some treks are just enjoyable, it has got a mixture of adventure, thrill and largest share is taken by fun. In this rapid way of living, where is the time to stop and have senseless conversation, that don’t mean anything or where is the time to sit down and argue on your favourite topic, where is the time to sit with your loved one and gaze the stars above endlessly, timelessly, infinitely? On such treks like Sandhan Valley, where the ever distracting technology is not with you, where one is not constantly swiping through cell phones to get latest updates on messages and mails; or where one is not constantly bombarded with unnecessary questions. Finally Small Steps Adventures had organized this famous trek of Sandhan.
 
Start of Journey

Train Journey till Kasara

The journey to Sandhan started with the train from CST to kasara. People boarded the train from respective stations and we gathered all into first boogie of train. We reached kasara at around 1.30 am.

From kasara 3 trax were booked which took us to base village. We were around 30 people.
Reached the base village at 4.30 am, rested for a while and at 6 am, refreshed ourselves; and were served with delicious breakfast of  ‘kande pohe and tea.’ A little introductory session and we were set to start the trek.

Introduction Sesssion

Trekking through the Valley


Outskirts of Sandhan Valley

We moved forward towards the valley. Sandhan is a great combination of canyon and valley. There are 300 feet rock walls on both sides. Once started with descend one could literally feel moving through mystic environment. Rocks on all sides, walking on stones and rocks, walls of carved rocks. The valley is deep enough for not reaching the strong sun light, which is a pleasure. Walking in shadows provide a cool climate. We were divided into 3 groups. Every group had a leader, The first group was led by Shreeharsha, The Second was led by Sushant and Sagar was leading the last group at the back. Chaitrali and me were connecting the groups and gaps.


The Valley Starts














Our Journey Begins

Walking further we could see many pools of water formed. Fishes are also present in them. After sometime we reached a spot where there was water till waist length and the rock walls were very close to each other forming a narrow gap. We pulled our track pants up, took our bags on head and walked through it. The water was icy cold. It literally was freezing. After crossing this we had to walk further straight.

Pools of Water

















Water till waist length

Just walking in the valley is a diverse experience. Long ahead one could see the opening of the valley and besides there were natural carvings formed on the wall.
Sometimes I feel reality is an amazing experience. Well places like these are heaven for photographers and platform for people who like to get photographed. Every 5 min of walk and we all clicked pictures. As now-a- days people are obsessed with their display pics, everyone was choosing the spots to get clicked and upload. Here our photographer of Small steps has to be patient and click pictures that would satisfy everyone and also satisfy him.


Photography By Sumit into the Valley

Descending further in the Valley


We had walked nearly for 4 hours, now further descend started. Here the rock patches were tricky. One had to look carefully and step down. We were approaching the first rappelling patch. We had to cross 3 rappelling spots to reach camping site. The descend was pleasant change from just walking between the rock walls. Although just walking down them interacting with one another, having fun, didn’t realize how much time had passed.  Rock walls now had widened the gap and it was sort of opening.

Opening of Rock Walls.












Our Photographer has finally got his own pic













The 3 Rappelling Spots

 
We reached the first rappelling spot at about 12.30 pm. It was 60 to 70 feet rappelling. The equipment was carried by the villagers who had lead us in the trek.  Rappelling at this spot needed harness, carabineer and figure of 8 to be worn, in addition to gloves and helmet. For many of us who had trekked with small steps rappelling has become usual business now. Although there is a little flutter in stomach every time I start going down backwards but, it goes away quickly. We rappelled respectively as our groups reached the spot. I was present in the group which rappelled first. We descended and awaited for others to join us, until then we had lunch bhakri and sabji. Now the adventurous part of trek had started.

Rappelling 1st Spot.

 

Rappelling with Equipment.

As we moved further we had to descend through rocks carefully taking grip sometimes; or just sliding through them. At some places water was percolating from rocks. The cold water satisfied our thirst.

Pool of water.








Tricky Rocks.

Ponds of water with fishes in them could be seen frequently. There was one spot where we had to enter through a small hole in the rock, and then slide down further. It was kind of some ride.

The rock says enter through me and I’ll show you the way

 

Entering through small tunnel.

The second rappelling spot was small in height. Rappelling by the rope was not actually required here.  But for safety rope was tied, no equipment. The height was about 10 feet. But there were no crevices to take grip hence we had to leave our legs freely in the air and completely take grip of rope and push ourselves down. Also as it was a narrow spot. Bags were passed down directly.

2nd Rappelling Patch

A narrow stream of water was flowing here; we refreshed ourselves from dirt and sweat trekking for almost 6 hours now. Rested for a while and moved forward to the 3rd rappelling patch.The 3rd rappelling patch was moderate it wasn’t high as first also not as simple as 2nd. Rope was definitely required but no equipment. It was around 20 to 30 feet. With rocks cut in between.

3rd Rappelling Patch

Thus the 3 rappelling patches were completed, now the camp-site was not far away. Half an hour of walk further and we reached a beautiful plateau, situated exactly in the center of hills. A stream of water was flowing down the rock and into the pond situated down the plateau, into the rocks. It was not approachable. We had carried tents with us, and started pitching on good spots before other groups could reach.

 Camping at a Plateau in Sandhan.
 
Tents were pitched, mats were rolled off, bags, luggage was gathered aside, twilight in the sky and we all rested for a while.  After the rest, tea was served by villagers, and people took out the food they had brought for the trek. What a wonderful feeling it is to sip the tea during the saffron light of evening.

Sunset at Camping Site.












Just Sitting in Twilight.














It was becoming dark, we all had engaged ourselves in fun conversations pulling each other’s legs and making fun of each other. As we sat around hearing each other’s experiences of treks, of their professional and personal lives, etc. dinner was ready; again prepared by villagers. Chapati, aloo sabji, dal and rice are perfect meal after exertion of trek.

Clear Sky Crescent Moon.

 




Pleasant climate for camping

After the meal, the favourite game antakshri was initiated by trek leaders. The game was fun. Variety and diverse songs were sung. The sound was echoing in the valley. The other groups also replicated us after some time.  There were many funny moments while the game was being played, as some moments are inexplicable in the blogs, those are situation based. Soon the game turned into just singing random songs instead of teams playing antakshri. We all were singing till midnight loudly, so much that some songs got once more from other groups.  The voice was getting echoed in the valley.

 At almost 1’0 clock we stopped singing and decided to sleep for a while as next day we had to descend to base village. So most of us slept outside tent as it wasn’t that cold. But what a starry night it was. Now- a-days due to pollution one can hardly even see a polestar.Places like these away from cities, in the valleys and mountains, the sky is clear with millions of stars visible. We could actually even spot the satellites encircling.

Gazing into the starry sky
Of infinite universe
The night descended on us
Through the mountains
And darkened the valley
Brought peaceful sleep in our eyes
that carried our dreams.

Descend from Sandhan
Wakeup call at 5.30 and the dreams broke into the sunrise. The light was spreading, as we got up, and engaged ourselves in morning activities. Got refreshed and breakfast was served. A hot Maggie and tea , perfect breakfast for descend.

Maggie Breakfast

Packed the tents, packed the bags and ready for few clicks; which eventually turned into many because people were still in the mood of enjoyment.

 Small Steps had carried out a wonderful gesture, while trekking we had collected all the waste and the plastic bottles into trash bags to clean the valley. While descending there were many trash bags, that need to be carried, everyone helped.

Cleaning the Valley

Descend was not that difficult, again we created 3 groups to descend. Ours was in middle this time. All the groups were coincidently were playing songs on speakers, and each group of different themes. Ours was party theme “mahol” we call it in hindi or Marathi. No silent songs in our speakers.


Descending easily.













Creating Mahol.

Walking through jungle was fun. Variety of trees with different fruits and flowers on them; just makes a realize importance of bio diversity in trees.

Captured the flower
Path of Jungle and Trail of Water.
 Finally we reached the base village and rested there for a while, had tea and Parle G biscuit.

Sunny Day, returning to base village


The return journey began through trax till Asangaon station. Everyone boarded the train and got down at respective station, now what resides are memories and photographs of the wonderful journey. 
It’s been many years now that I am trekking. Every trek gives me a different experience. Every trek I meet new people, new faces. The world is a big place, every new person I meet teaches me something different than before, gives me a different experience. This trek as said earlier was most enjoyable. Many people I knew because I had trekked with them, but the bond that was formed in this trek has emerged stronger. It’s like being in friendship for many years. 2 days of trek, and friends for lifetime. Thus these adventurous activities have got their own significance, especially in today’s world that has dark corners on every turn and enmity on every road.

Small Steps Adventures
It is a group founded by Sagar, Yogi, Sushant, Ravi, Prashant and Rashmi. The small steps adventures is a group, that take people on adventurous expeditions. The purpose of such expeditions is to spend a little time away from our busy life into peaceful and calm nature, where people from different walks of life join you, and one can make new relations.

 
Technical Details

Sandhan Valley: In Nagar District, Approximately 70-90Km from Kasara.
Base Village: Samrad
Transport: For Mumbai, Train till Kasara, and further Private vehicle, For Pune Private Vehicle preferred till Base village, or till Mumbai and then further.
Descend Base Village: Dehane and reach Asangaon by trax or private vehicle about 1 to 1 and ½ hours.

On the Steeps of Dhak

It is Sunday and we are ready to jump on the wagon of another adventure. This time it is the caves of Dhak Bahiri in Karjat region of Maharashtra. Dhak bahiri are the caves situated in middle of the cliff of Dhak fort in Sahyadri Mountains. The caves are situated at around 2600 ft. from base village. There is also a temple of Lord Bahiri.
Dhak Fort
 
 
Start of Journey and Introduction.
 
Our day started with Journey from Dadar to Lonavala to Kamshet base village. As usual everyone was geared up and excited for the trek. Bus Journeys are fun. They are the window to get know the fellow trekkers. It works as an ice breaker. Here is the unusual bond that you form which lies between friend and companions in the trekking expedition. As usual routine follows with the game of Antakshri; singing songs loudly together is such a fun; followed by breakfast of ‘kande pohe.’ This breakfast I think can now be patented by Small Steps.
 
Reaching the base village near Kamshet, we had a small introductory session to formally know each other followed by trekking instructions. Trek leaders were Sagar, Rashmi and Prashant and even I was given the role this time of bridging the gap between groups. Branching out am I?
 
While trekking in the forest
 
 
Ascend and Walk-through Jungle.
 
The trek falls into medium category. With hills up and down one has to walk lot. The Jungle provides shade from long and high trees and coolness in sunny day.
The dense trees protecting from Sun.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A little rest
 
Climbing the hill one reaches a narrow gap which divides two hills; it is kind of gully.  The narrow opening descends into other side of hill. The thrilling and adventurous part of trek starts from here. It is a narrow opening in its literal sense even bags can’t pass; one has to throw them down. One could see scenic view of mountains situated far away in the ranges through gap. Well lots of pictures were clicked here as, one by one people were descending.
 
The Narrow Gully between two hills
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Descending through Narrow gap
 
Narrow Descend
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Narrowing into thrilling cliff
 
Descending through this we had to walk traverse on the edge of the mountain; a rocky patch of around 60 to 70 degree gradient.
 
Traverse on Rocky Patch.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Edgy Traverse
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Selfie on Edgy
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Leaning right we walked further and reached a small cave, here we put our bags and removed our shoes. As there is temple on the top we were advised to remove footwear. But as soon as we removed it, our feet started burning due to heat; the rocks had become hot in sunny day.  But we moved further and reached a point from where one has to climb vertically.
 
First Steep Rocky Patch, Vertical
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
No Hope Without Rope
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here rope is hanged for the support, and we had to climb by taking grip in the crevices of the rocks. The climb was quite steep and we climbed one by one. Another steep rock patch starts from here and we climbed narrow steps on the hill carved on the edges by taking support of rocks; ahead two logs of trees were kept closely held to each other. 
 
Traversing towards the Wooden Log
 
The wooden log sways preciously with rhythm of the person. One has to take support of it and climb them by putting foot on small branches, like a ladder, here also rope was hanging for the support, we clutched it and climbed up with the help of branch ladder.  The two steep rock patches were done.
 
Arrival at the top into caves. 
 
 
Panoramic through Caves
Selfies in the Caves
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Finally we arrived at the top into the caves. The caves are big and spacious and divided into compartments. A small temple of Lord Bahiri is built in the cave. There are two water tanks in the caves. Many people who had trekked and reached there were cooking food. Utensils can be found in the caves, people who come here offer utensils and keep in the caves. One can use it, clean it and keep them in the caves only. There is also a superstition that women are not allowed; but girls in our group came till the caves, villagers did not oppose. It is also said that Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj once visited these caves of God Bahiri Maharaj. 
 
We rested for a while and then cameras were out, selfies, DP’s followed with pictures of natural scenery that could be viewed from the cave. The mountains of ranges can be viewed in semicircular shape from here, which makes a spectacular panoramic scene. After a while we started descending.  
 
Descend through cliff 
 
The descend was more thrilling, as being on the edge we could directly look down into valley; the real importance of rope is while descending as one could say ‘no hope without rope.’
Climbing down the log
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Climbing down the rope
 
Climbing down the steep patches we walked to reach the caves where we had removed our shoes and kept our bags. Retrieving them we moved ahead to reach narrow opening between two hills. We had trekked quite fast, nearly in 2 hours we had reached the top. Ascending on the narrow gap, we walked further into the jungle, finding a spacious place in the shadow of trees, we had our lunch. The lunch from the start was carried by trek leaders, and rotated in the group. Chapati and aloo sabji re-energized us from the climbing and descend. 
Delicious Lunch
 
The climbing and descending of hills was exhausting and we were getting dehydrated quite often. But encouraging each other we continued and finally reached a beautiful pond at the base of the village.Here we freshened ourselves filled our water bottles, and walked further to reach where our bus was standing. 
 
The Pond at Base
Refreshing, and Refilling.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Back Journey.
 
Reaching the assembly point, we bought some refreshments, climbed into the bus put our bags and settled ourselves. It did not feel too exhausting to sleep; everyone engaged in conversations, songs, music and memories from the trek. As we reached Mumbai one by one we got down at our stops and bid adieu. Finally another Sunday spent on trek was worthwhile.
 
 
Back Journey
 
 
Trekking journeys form many bonds and relationships with fellow trekkers. Some bonds turn into friendship, some are just to make fun of each other, some are flirtatious, some form deep bond of trust with each other, some become codependent for treks. But we all are fellow trekkers; enthusiastic about such expeditions and there is a mutual feeling of accomplishment that only we understand after every journey.
 
Small Steps Adventures
 
It is a group founded by Sagar, Yogi, Sushant, Ravi, Prashant and Rashmi. The small steps adventures is a group, that take people on adventurous expeditions. The purpose of such expeditions is to refresh people from their mundane routine and bring out the excitement and enthusiasm hidden in them.
 
Technical Details
 
Fort: Dhak Baihiri, caves are situated middle of cliff.
 
Height: around 2600 feet.
 
Level: Easy and from cliff difficult.
 
Base Village: Jambhivali, district – Raigad, Region – Karjat
 
How to Reach: Private transport is preferable, otherwise Mumbai-
                         Lonavala-Kamshet; ST bus and further some local                             transport till base village Jambhivali.   
 

Distance: From Mumbai 140km, From Pune 60Km.