Sunday, April 1, 2012

Nature trail to Shilonda

I have been part of nature lovers & trekking groups for quite sometime now and I have made it a habit of going for morning walk at least on weekends to National park in Borivali if I don't really have any other plans. With my interactions with different trekkers and being part of B.N.H.S, I actually came to know recently that there are at least 3-4 nature trails within National park and you require special permissions to go there. One of them is Shilonda trail......

When I came to know that B.N.H.S has planned Shilonda trail, I was quite excited and I decided to join them. So here I was on trail to Shilonda on Sunday morning with B.N.H.S group. The trail started at 7.30am in morning from the gates of the park. With formalities of enrolling complete, the group comprising of about 25 people were on their way to Shilonda around 8am. The trail actually starts 1km inside the national park. The sign board indicates the same on one of the route to Kanheri caves.

Even though its a restricted area which requires special permission to visit from forest dept but again its a unmanned post where no guard to stop anyone who does not have required permissions. Its a walk among the deciduous forest which concludes at 2nd stream. The walk would be around 3kms one way and it can be complete within 4-5hours in summers even after watching the nature at its best. The group leader Sanal from B.N.H.S informed us that this trek is heaven in monsoon when its a completely different world. I was pretty disappointed with myself as after having reached National park realised that I was carrying a camera without memory card, I left the card at home !!!!!! So this trail was without any pics from my camera. This was major disappointment for me as I just could not capture all that I saw on the trail but It was fun filled trek with so much to know from the expertise of group leaders from B.N.H.S.

The first amazing thing that came our way was "GHOST TREE", the reason its called that way is because the bark of the tree is white is colour and with leaves shedding complete it was like a tree with no leaves and bark of the tree milky white. It stands aloof from other trees nearby. As per our grp leader, on a full moon night and pitch dark in night this tree glows with its white bark, hence called "GHOST TREE".. interesting nature !!!!!!! 

Another tree was called Kukshi which flowers during summers, interesting thing about this flower is that its small in size and when it falls from the tree or even if you lift it and leave it to fall, It falls down like a spiral or a helicopter. We also came across Karwanda tree, fruit which is used to make pickles. Yet another tree called KUSUM, this tree had shed all its leaves and new leaves which were regrowing are initially red in colour making the tree stand out from nearby dried trees.The trail was turning out to be interesting with grp leaders sharing their expert knowledge about the forest.

On our way further, we came across nest from ants on top of the tree, these ants are called "PAGODA ANTS" as they built their nest which is like shape of a pagoda. Another ant's nest was called "WOODPECKER'S NEST". The interesting thing about this ant is that they are carnivorous and can attack even humans but woodpecker bird lays its egg in this ant's nest and even scientist are yet to find out why these ant's don't attack the bird's siblings. !!!!!!!!  Yet another ants nest that we saw is called "HARVESTER ANTS" which builds nest in the mud which is form of a circle and a funnel opening in between. At times these ants can store wild grains upto one Kg in these nest !!!!! also the nest is so amazingly built that during rains, water would run from the sides of the nest rather than collecting inside and destroying it. !!!! nature truly at its best ....

One tree was called "ELEPHANT WOOLY CREEPER" whose leaves are used to cure puss infection by tribals. Our grp leader also pointed to one of the tree which was the same kind of tree from where Krishna used to climb and trouble gopis. It has got reference in our Krishna epic. Some other trees that we came across were SPIRAL GINGER, WILD TEAK TREE, WILD JASMINE plant, KUDA tree used to cure upset stomach, MAHUVA tree whose fruits are alcoholic and used to make ARAK by tribals and can also make elephant go in tipsy after eating !!! One of the plant we came across was called "WILD BHINDI" and its also called GENE BANK as in case the "BHINDI " that we eat at home, if the crop fails for some reason then scientist can use the wild bhindi as hybrid to get our "BHINDI " back. 

Our trail was full of singing, chirping of different birdie, but with too much noise from the group and the children, it scared the birdies and that was quite disappointing. We also saw KARVY STEMS, the plant which flowers once every 7-8 years and its due now next year in September. One of the tree that we came across is called "RAIN TREE" common on Mumbai streets, its called so because lot of insects sit on the tree and secrete after eating which keeps dropping down hence called "RAIN TREE". The forest dept has built on the way MACCHAN close to small pond used especially by them during Leopard census. But we didn't really wanted to see Leopard on the way but we also didn't see any leopard pugmarks which surely would have made everyone jump with joy !!!

Finally after a walk of almost 2hours we crossed 1st dried stream which according to our leaders is in full flow during monsoon and difficult to cross due to sheer force of the water. But on the dried banks of the stream, there was growth of "MEXICAN POPPY" the seeds of this plant is like mustard seeds and is used to adulterate mustard oil !!!!

Our trail reached its end at the second stream which was again dried but became our resting place for eating snacks and small knowledge sharing session before we started our journey back. On the banks of the stream were some undergrowth of vines called TARZAN VINES and as per our grp leader, its an indicator that this forest is healthy and full of fresh air. It was an amazing trail and wonderful experience for me with lot of information gathered and I sure will be back as part of B.N.H.S trail again to Shilonda during monsoons hoping to see a different world all together. This trail is surely a must do with B.N.H.S group.

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