Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Trek to Manikgad (16th November, 2014)

16th November, 2014
Water was available at the top

This post is just a short version of our my visit to Manikgad. To read the official guide to Manikgad click here. To read about what to see at top of the fort, continue reading. If you like what you read then comment below and let me know. 

The Team:
At the start we were just four of us- Aaditya Gurav, Ninad Vilankar, Vinayak Pol and me. But while returning 12 trekkers got added up as their guide betrayed them on their way back and they had to rely on us to reach the village at the base.

Near a dried-up waterfall route
The beginning: 
This was the second visit with my friends and a third visit overall. The November rains, the day before, had washed the city and we were greeted with a pleasant weather, perfect for trekking. We left Panvel at 7.45 AM. From the highway we could see the silhouettes of Kalavantin-Prabalgad, Irshalgad, Matheran, Chanderi, Mahismaal, Nakhind, Karnala and many more forts far off. And within an hour we reached the Pataalganga ( पाताळगंगा ) Industrial Estate and crossed the mammoth Reliance Factory.  

The route:
We followed the same route as described in my previous blog. We had visited this fort earlier in the month of August 2012, and the rain clouds had completely blocked the visibility making it difficult to spot the route correctly. We thought that in a sunny month like November it could be easy to trek Manikgad. But the picture was different altogether. Thorny bushes and Karvy trees had made the trek- not difficult, but time consuming. 

On the traverse up to the foot hills of Manikgad, theres a reservoir- Jambhivali (जम्भीवली) which can be seen below at some height. And moving for another 30 - 40 minutes from here, we come across a small shed housing a Lord Hanuman carving. Near the Lord Hanuman  carving, some distance inside the forest, we also spotted a small carving of a unknown deity.

On the top:
Unlike last trek where we had to expedite the trek due to time constrains, we had some more time in hand this time. We had the opportunity to explore the fort. Trust me, there lots more to see than just 1 huge water tank and the main stone entrance. At the top there are about 8 to 10 water tanks, a small shed, a Shivling besides that shed, vestige of a standing structure, an almost fallen-apart wada, a set of stone-stairs, carved-out Ganesh sculpture on the main entrance, chunyacha ghana, a destroyed entrance to the fort (just besides the main entrance) and lots lots more.

Water cisterns on the top
Jambhivali reservoir as seen from the top
Encounter with the Bees:
I had never heard anything about the existence of the bees at Manikgad. At 2.00 PM they appeared out of nowhere, just after we entered the fort (near first water tank) and buzzed past us from above our heads. Well, there wasn't any attack of any kind but that moment was scary enough.

To read the detailed description of the route click here. This link will take you to my previous post on Manikgad trek. Hope you enjoyed reading.

Note: All the pics used in this post are courtesy of Aaditya Gurav. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

POV bicycle ride, Goa, INDIA

'If adventure sport is a reel, cycling is its protagonist'

This was my first attempt at shooting POV videos. The roads along the river bank are pretty much isolated from the city and free of any traffic. And once desolated, these unpeopled roads are perfect for bicycle ride. This road here is no exception. 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Trek to सोंडाई

Date: 9th August, 2014
Water available during Monsoon
Per head cost: 80 INR (Dadar to Dadar- including lunch)

Railway line
Sondai is not a fort but a small mountain in Karjat region (Matheran range). The top shelters the temple of Goddess Sondai. The 45 minutes are sufficient for climbing the mountain. There are about three to four water tanks on the mountain. 

Sondai Mountain
How to reach: Karjat ST bus stand is at a walkable distance from Karjat railway station. At the bus stand ask for the bus with destination Chowk or Murbad, that goes via Borgaon-bypass or Borgaon-phata (बोरगाव फाटा). The frequency of buses is good and it takes about 15-20 minutes. Karjat to Borgaon bypass is 7 km and bypass to Sondewadi is another 6 km. There is no direct bus to Sondewadi village (as of 2015). For a larger group (>7) private tum-tum can be arranged from Karjat itself. Although, no such service would be available for return journey from Sondewadi. If lucky, you might find some transport from Ambewadi bypass road (the bypass that goes to One-tree hill Matheran).

There are 2 trails to reach the top, one from Wavarle and one from Sondewadi. The trail from Wavarle has a long traverse along the mountain, that meets the Sondewadi trail at the top (much before the tanks).

As a general supposition, it was to be a simple walk on the twisting road along the Morbe (मोर्बे) backwaters, with an estimated climb-time of 45min. to 1.00 hr. from Sondewadi (सोंडेवाडी). But one wrong turn made it a 2hr climb. This was from Sondewadi. To reach Sondewadi itself, one needs to walk for 1 to 1.5 hrs. Transport was available, but we preferred walking the 5 km patch all the way to the base of the mountain. The flowing rivulets, breezing wind from the gigantic reservoir clubbed with gentle rain showers added a completely different flavor to the walk. The 50 shades of greenish groves, chirping of the several hundred birds, the yellowish vegetation with red-orange colored flowers making their way out of the shrubs, the herd of cattle lying lazily in the muddy pond- how often you get to experience such moments ? 

To Sondewadi
It was 10.30 AM when we started our climb. With the clouds still looming over, rains showed no sign of abating. From the col we headed-up straight, almost circumambulated half the hill, and then climbed from back. The one trail which appears to descend down the forest goes to the Wavarle village (वावर्ले) via the Wavarle dam. So, to wind-up, we started from Sondewadi and ended up climbing the trail from Wavarle  which consumed much of our time. 

Near the water tanks
At the plateau there are two water cisterns dug out from the stone. Above that, lies a 3-5 mts tall rock, followed by a newly built metallic ladder. Just after the ladder, there is a square water tank dug inside the stone wall and lies exactly on the edge of the trail. The trail goes right up to the top of the mountain where we found the idol of local goddess Sondai Devi (सोंडाई देवी) and other stone sculptures of other deities underneath a tree. The final part is a bit exposed to valley, but quite manageable. 

This mountain protrudes out from the main Matheran rage and has a height less than that of the main range.  Sondai Devi is worshiped by the locals from the nearby villages and the top is maintained by them. A glance from above shows the expanse of the Morbe dam and Wavarle reservoir. 

Sondai Devi
We took the descend route to the Sondewadi village (and not Wavarle) and because of which we reached the base in a whooping 25 minutes. And as we approached the village the school kids took us to a nearby waterfall. 
While descending...
The clock ticked 3.00 PM as we took the road back to karjat station. We could spot Manikgad far off, then silhouettes of Karnala, Irshal pinnacles, Kalavantin-Prabalgad, One-tree hill (Matheran) along the road. We met these two kids near the waterfall, deeply engrossed in mud-sculptures (we kind of disturbed them). They said "शाळेसाठी आम्ही अश्या लहान लहान गोष्टी बनवतो. आम्हाला मजा येते". 

Extra-Curricular activities!!!
A perfect end of a typical monsoon trek! The route cannot be missed. We preferred walking from the Borgaon phata, all the way till Sondewadi. Some people prefer shared jeep and autos from Karjat itself, which for us, was very expensive. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Trek to Kalsubai & a visit to Bhandardara

Date of Journey: 12th & 13th July, 2014

Kalsubai (कळसुबाई) is the highest peak in Maharashtra with 5400 ft. or 1650 mtr.
Please Note: Highest Fort in Sahyadri is Salher (5141 ft. or 1567 mtr.)
Click here to read more about Salher Fort

The Overview of the trek:

The most awaited and the most procrastinated trek of all times. We have been planning to climb this mountain since our first day in college but was left out due to some unknown reason. On the 12th July, close to midnight, heavy downpour welcomed the Mahanagri Express on platform number 18 at CST station. Amidst the crowd, we managed to push ourselves in and found some empty seats in the general compartment. The downpour continued till Kasara, and seemed to plummet as the train approached Igatpuri station. We had fresh kanda bhajji (कांदा भजी) and tea at the railway canteen and proceeded to the bus stand. Igatpuri bus stand is 10 minutes of leisure-walk from the station. The sound of the motors revving broke the 5.00 AM silence, and a Bhandardara bound ST came out of the yard. At Bari (6.30 AM) we had another good strong cuppa and began the climb. 

Kalsubai bus timings, travel directions and more: There is a direct bus from Kasara station in the morning ~7.10 AM connecting the Kasara local train. Destination is Bhandardara and goes via Igatpuri-Ghoti.First bus in the morning is from Igatpuri ST bus depot 5 AM. 

The trail starts with the small tar road entering village and then turning left out into the open fields again. With every step, the trail climbs-up. Multiple ladders and metal stairways are fitted all along the way-up, making the climb easier. With enough fun and breaks, we reached the top at 10 AM. Strong winds along with the rains had restricted the visibility of the surrounding mountains. The Kalsubai top is best known for viewing the mighty Alang-Madan-Kulang forts, the most difficult forts in Sahyadris. 

Although the village at the base of Kalsubai had experienced a relatively lesser rainfall by this month, the rain clouds at the top of the mountain showed no signs of abating. We started to climb down by 11.00 AM. It was taking a bit longer as the Jamun and Bush-plum trees were slowing us down. The route was filled loads of Jamun trees and we just couldn't resist passing by them without tasting the fruit. So the clock ticked 1.30 PM when we were at the base of Kalsubai. 

We proceeded to Bhandardara (Wilson Dam):

The air was ripe with the pleasant showers and the sky had started clearing as we waited for our transport to Bhandardara. We almost spent an hour, waiting at the bus stop, chatting with a school kid and dozing off in-between. Our ride to Bhandardara arrived at 2.45 PM. The stop name is Shendi village. The bus conductor told us buy the tickets for Shendi village and not Bhandardara.

Expanse of the backwaters

We were lucky to get the 4.30 PM, Kasara bound bus, directly from Bhandardara (Shendi). From Kasara, as usual, local train back to Dadar !

Note: The forest covered route and several steep iron ladders were the only attraction of Kalsubai. I remember my sister climbing it when she was 7 yrs old. This trek officially marked the end of my Semester 8 as well as my 4-year journey of Electronics Engineering, together with Aaditya Gurav, Abhash Kumar, Manoj Patil and Tarun Kaushik.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Trek to Harishchandragad

28th and 29th June, 2014
Camping in the Cave at the top
Water available at the top
Cost: 220 Rs (From Dadar to Dadar, including healthy food and breakfast)

There are plenty of trails going to the top of Harishchandragad. A difficult beeline route, known as Nali chi vaat (नळी ची वाट) exists, which joins the Kokan Kada (कोकण कडा) a massive parabolic overhang cliff. There are multiple Nali chya waata and they all need fit peopleClimbers have climbed the parabolic overhang (कोकण कडा) tooThe trail of 'Junnar Darwaza' starts from Khireshwar. The most preferred route via Tolar Khind also starts from Khireshvar village, and later meets the route from Junnar Darwaza. Khubi phata (खुबी फाटा) is well connected by Public transport.  Harishchandragad can also be accessed from opposite side- Pachnai (राजूर, अकोले) and also from लव्हाळे village.

About Harishchandragad:

Belonging to 6th century, countable number of relics of the bygone age are still found here. At the base of the mountain, resides the Nageshwar (नागेश्वर) temple. There are carvings of different Hindu deity, right from the ceiling to the floor, which are pleasing to watch at. At the top of the mountain, 4700 ft. above sea level, lies yet another ancient temple- Harishchandreshwar (हरीश्चन्द्रेश्वर). Sounding the temple bell and listening to its clangor was, as usual, a divine experience. Behind the temple is the cave of Kedareshwar (केदारेश्वर) and the (supposed to be) origin of the river Mangal Ganga (मंगळ गंगा). Harishchandreshwar temple lies at the center, surrounded by different caves. 

I have created this short video based on adventure we had there. The snake in the video is a baby-python, and no, it wasn't harmed while filming the video. Enjoy the video. 

Our Journey in a nutshell:

We boarded a Pune bound ST bus from Kalyan, at 6:35 AM, going via Manchar - Junnar, and got down at Khubi phata (खुबी फाटा). Khubi phata to Khireshwar village is a ~3 KM walk (also a good warm-up exercise). We climbed Harishchandragad via Tolar khind route, which is a traverse through the mountain.

We visited the Taramati peak, Kokan kada but had to skip the citadel (बाले किल्ला) due to time constraints. On the next day, we had a swim in the Pimplagaon dam. Roughly around 4:30 PM we caught the ST bus to Kalyan, and reached Dadar station at 9.30 PM.


Visiting kokan kada was top on our priority list. After having a light lunch we took the road to the cliff. The sky was partly-cloudy which means not suitable for experiencing the sunset. Whats so special about this kokan kada ? Well, there's a parabolic overhang beneath the cliff and when the wind blows inwards (towards the cliff), it gets an upward momentum. Throw a small tree branch- it falls few feet below and then rises with the wind to atleast 200 ft in the air above the cliff. Do experience this once in the lifetime. Try throwing water, the water droplets fly upwards!!

Note: Please do not throw plastic bottles or any plastic waste. It becomes difficult to clean those. Its a bad scenario if the bizarre place like Kokan-kada is infested by plastic. 

It started getting darker by 6.30 PM and we headed to our caves (pretty nomadic eh!!!) With Maggi Noodles and Bhakri for dinner, we went to sleep in our cozy sleeping bags and mattresses.


It was 3.45 AM in the morning. We (Ninad, Sumit, Aditya and me) stepped out of the cave. The sight was quite spooky. It was dark, the fog had engulfed the whole top and we couldn't even see beyond the the 3rd feet. Not to mention the bone-chilling cold !! By 5.30 AM everyone woke up and we started our trek to Taramati peak, the highest point of Harishchandragad. It was even more spookier at the top than we expected. the valley was covered in the clouds on both the sides, and we were walking on the ridge, not having a single clue about the depth of the valley. We encountered a few steep rock-climbs at some places which were exposed to the valley. But we couldn't see the valley in the first place and so no fear while climbing !! It wasn't raining, but the strong winds and the clouds felt as if it was. The experience was nostalgic. Only sad luck was that we were not going to experience the heavenly sunrise.

A long way to go....
From left: Nikhil Phatak, Ninad Vilankar, Aditya Gurav, Sumit Ghogale. The Mountain is hiding behind the thick mist ahead. There are jeeps available to reach Khireshvar, but they charge heavily. So we preferred walking.


Some reptiles- dead ones

Some reptiles- live ones

At Tolar Khind
The famous carving of a tiger

On the way. Almost half-way.

On the way
The route from Junnar Darwaza meets somewhere near this small shanty. This is after the rock-patch. The remainants of fort walls can be seen here. After this, there is still a long way to go. The arrow-markings all along the route helps to trace the proper route.
Temple of lord Ganesh- at the top

Temple of Harishchandreshwar

Water cistern

The square lake - Saptatirtha Pushkarni Lake
In this picture, is the सप्ततीर्थ पुष्करणी तलाव. This lake has 14 small temple like compartments (as seen in the pic). When my parents visited this place some decades ago, they had the 14 Lord Vishnu idols in them. Now these idols are shifted to different temples (Harishchandreshvar etc.). Although the lake looks in a bad shape, the locals said that there will be a cleaning mission soon happening here.

Mountains surrounding Harishchandragad

Experiencing the divine "Kokan kada"

A really big group
From left: Nikhil Phatak, Pratik Ghag, Me, Aditya Sapate, Aditya Gurav, Ninad Vilankar, Tarun Gangwani (Grey shirt at back), Alok Narayan, Sumit Ghogale. And Manoj Patil was busy on his phone, as usual :)

Shivling inside the cave (Kedareshwar)
The world ends when the fourth pillar falls
Now this is a big Shiv Linga right there. A tradition- go around the Shiv-Ling in the 4-feet waist-deep  freezing cold water! Its very safe, but cold. There were four pillars holding the temple. Now the temple stands on the single pillar. The legend- the World ends when the fourth Pillar falls. And personally, I don't have a good reason (yet) as why I should not believe this old legend ! The water in this temple never dries out, not even in Summer !



A hole inside the mountain
It called a Nedha (नेढ)
The Junnar Darwaza route goes via this Nedha. This route is not frequented, but exists. It would be an adventurous journey to try this route.

Nageshwar temple
At the base of the Mountain
This is a very old temple full of carvings and sculptures from the ceiling to bottom. It houses the शेषशायी विष्णु sculpture.

Pimpalgaon Dam.
A swim is a must here
A Note: Harishchandragad is super crowded during weekends. It is changing its designation from a trek to 'picnic spot'. People ring the villagers to "book" a cave for them. You may also find tents near the caves. Beware, late night chaos in the caves is common now. If you are planning to go to Harishchandragad for peace, then aim for a weekday. If not, then I strongly recommend you to carry your own tent and sleeping bag, and camp somewhere else, away from that boisterous crowd. And if you don't have a tent, cave is the only option, and you find an empty cave, then take it! Its still first come first serve. Do speak to the locals, they might help you. 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Trek to Kohoj fort (कोहोज चा किल्ला)

Height: ~3200 ft.
Per head cost: 101 INR (Dadar to Dadar, including lunch, breakfast, snacks)
21st June, 2014

The per head 101 Rs. included train from Dadar-Palghar-Dadar, one healthy lunch, transport from Palghar-Kohoj-Palghar, snacks- cakes, puran-poli, tea and vada-pav. We were group of 6, which means total amount was 606 Rs. Its funny the groups charge 700-800 Rs for a single person!!

Tarun and Kunal with Kohoj in Background
Reaching Vaghote (वाघोते):

Kohoj fort lies off the Manor-Wada highway, one of the road joining NH8. So reaching Vaghote was very much similar to reaching the village at the base of Asherigad. After reaching Palghar, we boarded Nashik-Nandurbar bound state transport bus going via Manor-Wada highway. Only difference is that, a left turn from Mastan Naka on NH8 will go to Asherigad and a right turn to Kohoj.

Travelling in the state transport bus (लाल डब्बा ) for the first time, Kunal felt uneasy at first. But later enjoyed the ride when the driver picked up the speed. Kohoj fort was visible from the bus once it entered the Manor-Wada highway. Kunal's first reaction was- वहा उपर तक जाना है ? We had a hearty laugh.

From Vaghote (वाघोते) to Top: 

Breakfast at Palghar station turned out to be a perfect move from our side as finding any shops at Vaghote was beyond the realm of possibility. Without wasting a single minute, having set the proper direction on the compass, we set off. The first lake was very much close to the highway. It looked like it was dug out of stone, and the water in it was pretty clean. The byway goes straight to Shelte village. To reach the Pazaar lake, the branch going to the right side needs to be followed till the wall of Pazaar lake is seen.

Walk on the wall of the lake was highly exhilarating; the view of the fort, and the lake in its courtyard was appealing. Now, where the wall ends, trail enters the forest, and starts climbing gradually. By the time we reached the first open space on the slope, we were kinda lost. The route looked shaky and unclear. But we kept on following that route, with a vague feeling about this route meeting the main route. It did meet the main route. But before that we had to cross the thorny bushes, heaps of dried leaves, slippery rocks and what not. But with all this, Kunal didn't even showed a single symptom of the usual first time trek. Abhash and Tarun were also helping him restore his confidence at times. Aaditya and Manoj were helping me find the route. They also helped me to find a Conker-berry bush aka Bush Plum or Carissa Caranda or करवंद tree nearby. After feasting on the juicy fruits, we proceeded to the ridge where Kohoj hill actually starts. We had to climb the dried-up water stream to reach the col (खिंड). The strong winds welcomed us. Also, we found that the correct route was just beside the route we were climbing.

Trail after the col was straightforward and the possibility of losing it was null. The forest covered the full route and the dulcet tones of different birds filled the atmosphere. We could locate the remains of the main entrance to the fort. The approach to the top has a few standing remains of the fortification (तटबंदी). The top of the fort is a large plateau having a stone carving, Shiva temple, countable water cisterns, vestige of a standing structure, a naturally formed human-like structure, temple of Lord Hanuman, another stone carving of Lord Hanuman and Temple of Lord Krishna. It was surprising to see a Krishna temple, as it is very rare to see one dedicated to Krishna. One similar temple (newly built) was spotted on Mangi-Tungi ridge.


We had our lunch behind the Shiva temple. Aloo, chana masala were the favourites, khichidi, thepla, puri, pickles were other supporting goodies.

Exploring the Kohoj fort and getting down:

Naturally formed- human like structure

Abhash Kumar enjoying the nature

Manoj and his favorite pose


Pazaar Lake (पाझर तलाव) aka Shelte Lake (शेलटे तलाव):

Pazaar lake

Kids enjoying a swim in Pazaar lake

Kids enjoying swim in Pazaar lake :)

This is a huge man-made water body which provides water to the Shelte Village and adjoining villages. Water from this lake is mostly used by people for washing purposes, bathing and by cattle. At ~4.30 PM, when we reached the lake, we decided to take a plunge into the lake and cool down the body. Before entering the lake, we first ensured that it would be safe for us there, confirmed with a herder (गुराखी) and then set forward to step our foot inside. It was also the usual bath time for the local school kids, and they were too enjoying themselves. An under water route follows upto the middle of the lake. The 30 minutes spent in the lake were assuaging. All the fatigue caused by the days trek had died out and had left us with enough sense of ebullience to finish the remaining trek. We were so very much charged up that we ended up in a wrong village instead of reaching the Manor-Wada highway!

Reaching home:

A tum-tum dropped us at Mastan Naka (मस्तान नाका) and charged us reasonably. A benevolent tempo-driver also gave us a lift till Palghar railway station. We reached just in time to catch the 7:30 PM, CST bound fast local train.

Now it was time for the Kohoj trek to enter the dossier on trekking.

Some more information:
Height of Kohoj fort is roughly 3200ft. The village at the base of Kohoj fort, Vaghote, can be reached from both, Thane as well as Palghar. Always consult a villager before taking a swim in the lakes, especially during rainy season (we always do).