Friday, August 10, 2012

Naneghat - A walk in clouds of Heaven

After my last trip to Matheran, I was bitten with trekking bug and had planned next couple of Sundays exclusively for trekking to different places, In monsoons the Sahyadri mountain range becomes trekkers paradise and each place is like a heaven in clouds, lush green and some amazingly beautiful waterfalls and I really didn't want to miss any opportunity. One such place worth a visit in Monsoons is Naneghat - Also known as Naneghat caves. So as soon as our group BACKPACK decided to go to Naneghat. I was first one to enroll.

Naneghat : As the name suggest it means "Coin for Nane" and "Pass or road for Ghat".Its one the oldest know "Toll Road" used right from Satavahana (200 BCE - 190 CE). The route was extensively used as trade route connecting Junnar in Pune district to Kalyan. Once you climb through the forest, one will reach the base of pinnacle which is called " Nanacha Angatha" meaning "Nana's thumb" as the pinnacle looks like a thumb. From this base, 2 meter wide pass connects the plateau called "Naneghatachi Nali" .There still exist a pot which was used to collect toll from the traders passing through the route.Since those times villagers around the place still use the route to travel from Deccan plateau to Konkan and of course its a famous monsoon trek for trekkers like me and you.The nearest village is Vaishakhare on Ahmednagar rd which is approx 2kms from the main gates.

My trek: The day was decided for the trek on 29th July - Sunday and meeting place was Dadar east at the gates of Swaminarayan temple at 5.30am. Mumbai suffering from global warming and El nino effects on rain, had very scant rain this year but on the day of our trek in the morning it was good omen for it had started raining and I was completely wet waiting for my group to gather. But no regrets with hot cuppa of tea in the rains is any day welcome and especially when its wee hours of night or early morning.With the Backpack group all gathered by 6am, we all hopped into our bus for destination - Naneghat which lies on way from Kalyan - Murbad road to Ahmednagar or more close Malshej ghat. We reached Naneghat gates by 9.00am and it was so blissfull. lush greenery everywhere we looked, light drizzles and our destination covered in clouds. After a quick breakfast of Poha and cup of tea we all gathered for a quick round of self introductions.A group of 22 which included 3 Australian friends with two leaders Mayur and Akshay.

Our groups custom of saying a clarion call by our leader "Jai Shivaji Jai Bhawani" - kinda thanking Shivaji our very own leader who built most of the forts in Sahyadris and because of whom we as trekkers are now able to explore such places, We all marched to capture one more destination - Naneghat.

First 30minutes was a simple walk on a plateau passing through couple of streams with cold water gushing through it. We could now see our destination clearly but at times getting covered again by rain clouds. Rains had started pouring more heavily now. Slowly marching forward with occasional stop for rest, the entire group was all excited with right weather and above all the entire surrounding place passing through some dense teak wood forest and sound of nearby waterfall.

After a walk of around 40-50minutes one comes across a winding and slow ascend road leading to the top with small and some large rocks and water streaming down from the mountains at the top. The roads is clearly marked and very less chance of someone loosing on the way. Reaching half way we stopped for some rest at a place from where we could see the entire surrounding region so lush green and beautiful and looking top we could now see that we were so close to our destination in the clouds. It was sight I could never forget. What a beauty...... I would only say one thing that if one is a trekker, then he has to do this trek specially in Monsoons. Its just a walk in clouds of Heaven !!!!!!

We continued our march forward with everyone cracking jokes and laughing, making our climb even more fun filled. Occasionally motivating group members who were first timers, who kept asking how long is our climb now !!! After a climb of almost 3hrs we came across a tank carved out of rocks for storing water, we stopped there again for everyone to gather. Looking at the tank one could only think that how the rulers of ancient time have taken efforts to build a tank on the route to store water for the traders passing through the path.

 Our destination was very close now as we could see the first and biggest cave of Naneghat which was our destination. We were now literally walking in the clouds as couldn't even see something which was 100 meters away. It was a trek of over 3hrs and 30min when we all finally managed to reach the top - Naneghat caves. We were thrilled to see ourselves standing in the clouds. The view from the top was just indescribable !!!!! whoooooooooooaaaaaaaaaa.

The main cave at the top can easily accommodate 50 people and two other smaller caves right opposite to main cave can accommodate around 10 people each. The main cave has some inscriptions in Brahmi scripts which is gradually getting destroyed unless our government takes some steps to preserve the heritage. The main cave is now closed after 3pm and overnight stay in the cave is also not allowed but its one cave which is cleaned and maintained by locals, one can sit and relax, have food and also tea which is made available by local villagers. There exist a water storage tanks close by which has potable water.

After relaxing for around 30-40min and also having our packed lunch, we decided to explore the place before our descend down. There is rock cut path next to the caves, on climbing it, I was actually in for a surprise. there lie a motorable road from Junnar side, so one can actually drive all the way to the caves from Junnar. The pot which used to collect the "Gold coin or the toll" from the traders in ancient times still stands firm. The view of the mountains covered with clouds was just magnificent on the Junnar side. We decided to climb to the plateau on top of the caves, though it seemed to be little tough and slippery but we did manage it. Once at the top, we could barely manage to stand due to strong winds and rain drizzles. We had to hold one another in fear of being swept away by the winds.From the top the view of the entire region of Deccan, Junnar & nearby peaks was something that just cannot be described, It was simply mind blowing. We sat for sometime with everyone doing  photoshoot. We were all thrilled to have completed half of our trek successfully with everyone praising the place was nothing less than A walk in the clouds of Heaven.

We all decided to move back and start the descend as it was getting darker even though it was only 2.30pm and it was now raining heavily. We slowly started the descend but it was tough for some first timers in the group due to loose and slippery rocks. It took almost another 3hrs 30min for us to reach back to the main gates of Naneghat caves where our bus was ready to take us back home. It wasn't a tough trek but the time to climb up and down was what makes this trek a medium grade. But everyone was excited to have done it successfully with smile on every one's face for MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. For me I felt it was the best trek I have ever done so far and would certainly love to comeback especially in Monsoons again, just to fall in LOVE with this place again.

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