It was raining throughout the day... contemplating to write a blog... sitting lazy beside the window, sipping the steaming hot evening cup of coffee, I looked out … rain kissed roads, rainbows in raindrops … mists and clouds and a refreshing green that was so soothing in its lushness and purity… Suddenly a flow of thoughts from the memories unlocked the nostalgia
Malshej – I closed my eyes… the nostalgia gets stronger. Ah … it was one of my very early explorations in the Western Ghats in the monsoons. Nestled in the clouds, a mountain range covered with lush green coat - the scenic beauty of the Ghat, especially in the monsoons is simply awe-inspiring. A drive through the road leading towards the cloud covered mountain peaks with green overhanging tree canopies on both sides of the road… it just cannot be explained. It needs to be experienced. I didn’t know for years what I was missing till I finally was walking on the clouds.
Malshej makes a fantastic weekend gateway for most of the Mumbaikars and a drive from Thane takes you to Murbad in no time where you may halt for a cup of tea and by another one hour one can reach the dense foggy patch of Malshej Ghats ... the fog sometimes is too heavy and that day it was. Visibility can become almost nil beyond 2 meters...
The locals told us that Shivneri fort, about 18 km ahead is worth visiting. It is the birthplace of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and is a protected monument by Archeological Survey of India. The fort is beautiful. The top offers excellent panoramic view of the entire area.
We couldn’t realize that it was time to come back until our driver reminded. We were on our way back … Thane was still 100 kms away. The vastness of nature kept us amused for quite sometime... we weren't talking. The magic was still keeping us day dreaming
A pending wish, Kavita's boredom and 2 consecutive holidays - all helped for a rapid execution of the plan. Since we had 2 days in hand, we thought we’d spend the night in Igatpuri. Igatpuri happens to be a small town on the Mumbai-Nasik highway, mostly ignored and passed by the thousands of cars running by the busy highway. Thanks to our decision of staying back overnight at Igatpuri - I am sure it is only people who have spent a day in Igatpuri will know that just half a kilometer from the highway; there lies a peaceful green valley surrounded by the hills.
Amazing!!! ... We all admitted.
Bhandardara is 40 kms from Igatpuri. Green is name of silence … and one can find in the magical heights of Bhandardara. Besides being a visual delight to the tourist, the place also has a number of unique attractions. The biggest of them, according to me, was ‘Wilson dam’.
Dodson-Lindblom Hydropower Private limited (DLHPPL) and Ascent Hydro Projects Limited (the companies) are India-based companies formed between 1994 and 1997 to develop, own and operate hydropower generation assets in India. The other places of interest around here, which also remained unexplored, are the Agastya Rishi Ashram, Ratangad Fort and Amruteshwar Temple. nested amongst the clouds of the Sahyadris, Bhandardara is undoubtedly one of the best creations of god
It was November 2008, so many times in that year, we had planned and cancelled ... repeatedly.... Bhimashankar had become an ecstasy. It was almost an 8 months old desire that finally came true and we decided to climb and get back home the same day ... that was something people usually don’t attempt… is what my friends told after i came back! The plan was to start hiking early in the morning so that we reach to the top before 12 noon and as we planned to come down on same day, we were aware that we would have very little time to allow the muscles to relax after a continuous hiking of 3296 feet uphills.
The base village is Khandas. We had reached Neral on Saturday evening, spent the night in a hotel and started off in the morning. As you approach Khandas, the vast rocky wall of Bhimashankar range of Sahyadris starts sending a chill down your spine…
There are two routes of trekking. One is by Ganesh Ghat and the other Sheedi Ghat. The Sheedi Ghat is short but risky. We trekked through Ganesh Ghat route. The total trek is nearly 4.5 hours by Ganesh Ghat. After hiking for sometime, we reached a plateau. Chirping birds were all around accompanying us throughout. The Sheedi Route also comes and meets in this plateau at a common place and after this there is a common steep climb. After walking for quite sometime within dens forest, it seemed that the plateau was now heading again to steeper heights. This second part of the hiking is really strenuous. At places, there is almost vertical climb, at places there is no route, at places only rock wall and at place grass slopes. We walked, crawled, jumped and rolled… my reluctance to walk everyday, was paying its price. After a continuous 4.5 hrs of climbing we reached the peak where the famous Bhimashankar temple is there. We rested for a while inside the temple premise and then started looking for stomach fillers. a number of pure vegetarian restaurants serve to the needs of the pilgrims visiting the temple. We should have rested for a while after the lunch but as we had to come down before the sunset, we hardly rested for 15 minutes and started trekking down again. My misconception of the fact that descending takes 50% of the time taken to ascent was proved wrong. It took us complete 4 hrs to come down as well. Tired, exhausted but such an enjoyable experience; i would cherish every moment of it when some day in future I would look back to the nostalgic past of association with good old friends.
I remember, when we said Matheran, the number of enthusiasts were relatively more in number. Some said ... ah.. I have been frequenting this place... have trekked almost 5 times. Matheran is one of the most popular weekend gateways for all Mumbaikars. Situated in the Sahyadri ranges, Matheran is typically famous as a hill station with relics of British era and the narrow gauge railway track, which used to get them to the top of the hill station. For most people, a weekend visit to Matheran means taking a train from Mumbai to Karjat or Neral and then hire a taxi to Dasturi naka from where one can walk up the road and see some tourist attraction points.
We had plans to climb … climb the rocks via Garbet valley ... the trek starting from Asal Gaon, Bhivpuri. As a sudden notice on the previous night, Sandeep showed a genuine interest, although he was still not very clear about the difference between a picnic and a trek...
There are several trek routes to Matheran – one is via Rambagh point. From Karjat one can start walking towards Ambewadi village to reach the trail, which leads to the Big Chowk point or the Elephant Head point. Finally the route ends in Shivaji steps, which is a steep vertical climb. Reaching the top, one can see, one tree hill point on the left. It’s a 3.5 hrs climb. Or else, one can reach Karjat and take a bus to Bhor village. From Bhor one may get the same trail leading towards the Shivaji steps and reaching near one tree hill point. We started from Bhivpuri station ahead of Neral and we parked the vehicle at Asalgaon, from where our actual trek started. It’s a refreshing trek otherwise, however, Sandeep was having a tough time carrying himself up. It’s a total of 13 kms trek and we kept trekking through villages and forests and once we reached the top, we found a forest trail leading towards Matheran.
Matheran was declared an ecosensitive region by the union environment ministry and is called a health sanatorium. The only form of automobile allowed in Matheran is an ambulance operated by the municipality. It is clean, green and vast. Landscapes spreading till the horizon and the vastness of the valleys was just mesmerizing. It was magical indeed... spreads of valley across the mountains and patches of mist at the mountain bases upto the horizon till where you could look upto - altogether it wasn't a realistic situation at all. I was daydreaming!! It could have been finished faster but Sandeep was getting tired and stressed. As we reached the top, we touched the forest trail – the road that leads to Matheran. We had a fantastic Misel Pav at hotel Ketkar and a hot cup of tea. We spent some more time around and then had our lunch and came back by 3 pm. We were back to Thane by 8 pm.
Mahul Gaon – Koli food festival – locals were dancing to the tune of the folk music! That was a pleasant evening… a fishy evening rather… we were eating away to glory till 1 am … fish, fish and fish. I had a serious doubt that we would not be able to make it upto Kothligad this week. Slept at 2. Old habits die hard, I was awake by 5 am. It wasn’t an easy task to think about the trek after 3 hours of scanty sleep with a heavy stomach … but finally we made it possible to drive to the railway station to catch the immediate next train to Karjat.
Kothligad is a fort to the east of Karjat at a considerably easily achievable height of 1550 feet above the sea level. The trek starts from the base village of Ambivali. One can reach Ambivali fron Karjat using various modes of transport; there are auto rickshaws, tomtoms and buses available. We took a rickshaw, which took us to the village of Ambivali. The initial part of the trek is a continuous uphill walk / climb till the Peth village. It took us 1.30 hrs for us to reach Peth. Peth is a silent and nice village. The hospitality of the villagers is appreciable. If you happen to be in Kothligad, do meet Mr Sriram Sitaram Sawant, and don’t forget to ask for a glass of limewater to freshen up… it would work wonders after the strenuous trek. Trekkers come to him to for lunch or dinner and even spend nights on overnight treks. We decided to come back and have lunch after trekking the pinnacle of Kothli gad.
Contact details: Sriram Sitaram Sawant; Bhairavanath Bhojanalaya, Peth; Mobile: 09270322859, 02148686017
The pinnacle appeared a steep piece of rock. The pinnacle is quite interesting. It is carved from inside, and there is a rocky steep staircase made to reach at the top internally. One can see 13th century cave and temple carvings inside. The history is not known in too much detail till 18th century. British captured the cave in 1716 and later on the same year recaptured by the Marathas under the leadership of Bapurao who belonged to the generation after Bajirao. However, in 1817, the British again recaptured it.
The last portion of the climb is quite risky and there are a few areas where one would hardly find any place to keep feet and climb with the body weight pushed towards the rocky wall. Looking down would be scary for anyone with acrophobia. The top of the pinnacle gives an amazing view of Bhimashankar towards north and Dhak Bahiri & Rajmachi towards South-West. The landscape was vast – as far as one could take his sight. We were happy we made it to the top – one more peak was added to the list.