Monday, September 30, 2013

Jambhulmaal - Hidden treasure in middle of S.G.National park

Sanjay Gandhi National park a.k.a Borivali National park - One of the few most visited places in Mumbai is nothing short of Pandora box full of surprises. Little does one know that this beautiful preserve is spread across a region of 104kms and is visited by million visitors every year. Its right in the heart of Mumbai city and is one of the largest real forest in the middle of any city in the world. Apart from being a very popular picnic spot for families and school kids, it has rich habitat of bio diversity and wide variety of flora and fauna can be found here. This invariably attract nature lovers, trekkers, bird enthusiasts who frequent the wild in search of perfect adventure. Not only that It also hides in its belly a cave complex of 109 caves of Buddhist origin from 1st century B.C which is a must visit here.

My Trail : I have been a regular visitor to this national park and I make it a point to visit this place for a morning walk on weekends if I am not going on treks or trails. I have also been to Shilonda trail organised by B.N.H.S which is one of the restricted areas of the park. But last week came as surprise when I got a request to join "Jambhulmaal" trail by T.M.I group. I had never heard of it before and nor a frantic google and blog search got me any details. I was quite surprised and excited that there was more of this Sanjay Gandhi national park that I had not seen and heard for all these years. So here I was on to a trail to a hidden place in heart of National park.

National parks are divided in three parts - recreation areas which will house gardens, playgrounds, periphery of core area where most of the trails are located and then core area which by default is restricted as its home to animals and they roam around free. This trail was in the core area. Nilesh Patil our leader had taken requisite permissions for us to enter the core area. Our meeting point was at S.G.N.P gate at 7.30am. From there we moved by a one hired car, some on their own bikes and one car. In 10-15 minutes we were at entrance of Kanheri caves. A quick round of introduction followed by breakfast of Idli and chutney breakfast brought by our leader. We were group of 19 people which also included 3 kids. One of our co-leader was zoologist who would be sharing knowledge on the way. So this was not merely a trail but a informative and educational field visit along with perfect expert of the jungle.

As we moved inwards from Kanheri caves entrance, first diversion we made was from the closed bridge. We were now walking on different route and not one usually takes to explore the caves complex which is open to public. On our way we came across water storing cave and some half cut caves. These caves were covered by thick vegetation and were almost hidden. One cannot stop wondering how these caves were made without any proper tools and with so much of meticulous planning and engineering skills.There are proper carved steps to take you to the top of caves complex. Our leader informed us that this cave complex was Buddhist university and students from across the world would visit it during its heydays.

It was hot and humid day with no sign of rains, our first halt was on a plateau from where one could get complete view of Borivali skyline and one can see all the way to the famous Pagoda on Gorai island which is another must visit in Mumbai. View gave us perfect understanding of concrete urban jungle and the natural green jungle which is fast depleting and making way to its counterpart our concrete urban jungle abode.

Our first interesting sighting was of flock of butterflies, truly beautiful and multicoloured ones fluttering around one small plant. They were busy in their work and this gave us a chance to capture them in our lens. It was just amazing !!!

Now it was time to enter dense jungle. As we moved deeper inside, we found one small plant called "Touch me not", true to its name, if one touches the veins of the leaves, the two leaves would fold and close. Truly remarkable example of how nature stores surprises in its belly !!!!!

We also saw "SAAG" tree, also called Teakwood tree famous for its wood which is used in making furniture's which are termite free due to natural termite resistant qualities of this tree.

On the way, some more interesting things we came across was lichens on the trees indicating the pollution free environment and one could breathe as much as one could. Wild "Bhindi" - lady's finger flower, some wild flowers, wild "turmeric" plant. some wild mushrooms,

Termite ants nest, pagoda ants nest which is completely waterproof, and harvester ants nest on the way.

We got a glimpse of Tiger spider basking in sunlight in its web. Showing off the radiant colours....Truly national park is a treasure trove !!!!!!

Mountains as they say are deceptive with each route looking the same and wrong ones tempt you to follow them more, but jungles are worst, as always the correct route is always hidden in some dense growth. After our halt at first plateau, we entered the jungle territory. Our route passed through shrubs which were more than 6 feet's tall !!!!!. Walking for sometime, we climbed rock carved steps to move to second plateau. In between the first and second plateau the route is plain walk on grass cleared path. There was not a single living soul on the route except for our group.

As we marched towards our destination, we came across one moth which I had never seen anything like this before. Fluorescent green eyes and some attractive design on the body.Depends how you look at it, it could be yucky !!!! or interesting !!

Another of its cousin was beautiful,completely white and with brown patches. It yet again showed the nature's way of show casing some good colour combination. On one of the plants, moth had eaten the leaves in a manner which created a design in the leaves.

Trees branch had grown in such a way that it entangled each other creating a sort of natural art installation. Amazing !!!!

One of the areas which we passed through was full of bamboo plantation. Huge bamboos as well as tender bamboo shoots growing in wild, It was my first time to see the bamboo plantations and our route passed through these plantations.

As we neared our destination, again we had to walk past some densely grown shrubs which were more than 6 feet tall again and at times we had to bend and walk in between them. This was second such instance of we walking among these shrubs. For anyone who would want to visit this place this info could be helpful.

After this walk we came across one important landmark. It was a board painted in blue with Air force symbol. It was again a huge surprise to find that this area belonged to Air force. Our guide informed us that there was some important installation and one road was leading to Air force installation base.

We took the other route and after a walk for few minutes were at the highest point in Sanjay Gandhi National park. And from here we could see Tulsi, Vihar and Powai lakes in sequence. We could see the Powai Hiranandani skyline and on the left we could see Thane creek and Thane skyline. It was just Wow feeling that there could such a place in middle of national park giving us such a amazing view. There is also a Machaan which one can climb and it gives you a perfect view and feeling of being at the top of the world !!!!

For the first time I also got glimpse of how deep and dense our national park is. Hopefully it stays that way. It took us approximately 2hr and 30minutes to reach here. We had our brunch that we were carrying with us and after spending some time in the shade we bid adios to this perfectly beautiful spot in the middle of our National park. Everyone was quite happy to be a part of this trail and were quite surprised to find that there exist such a place which they had never heard of even after spending so many years in Mumbai.

On our way back, we saw a perfectly camouflaged frog which can easily be ignored as black coloured stone on the way.

We missed our way at one occasion only to find a hidden waterfall in middle of dense forest but luckily we were back on right path in no time and were back at our base at Kanheri caves entrance by 2.30pm. It was happy ending of perfectly spend Sunday exploring the hidden surprises of our very own neighbourhood national park.

                        A wonderful visit to hidden treasure spot called JAMBHULMAAL.

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